Movie Review: “Father of the Bride” — Unnecessarily Recycled
By Sarah Osman
It’s welcome to have a Latino-centric father of the bride, but it’s debatable whether we really needed one so awkwardly put together.
father of the bride, directed by Gary Alazaraki. Broadcast on HBO Max.
There are as many comedies as there are different types of scams. And, because the roots of humor are so ambiguous – Freud said that jokes are expressions of veiled hostility – it can’t always be said clearly that a comedy is just a comedy. And that explains why there are so many genres of sub-comics: “romcom”, “horror-comedy”, “comedy-drama”. The latest iteration of the oft-filmed story father of the bride is billed as a comedy, but given that it deals with abrasive issues and personalities, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs.
There have been three film versions (the fourth counting the original novel) of Father of the bride. Each followed roughly the same plot: a father learns that his daughter is getting married and panics at the thought of losing his baby girl (and because of the high price of the ceremony and reception). Each film reflects the mores of the time period it’s set in (1950, 1991, and 2022), so it’s no surprise that the 2022 release is the most progressive of the lot. What’s disconcerting is that the first two were goofy family comedies, with most of the farce aimed at the titular goofy dad. Director Gary Alazaraki’s astringent take on the patriarch isn’t quite so lighthearted.
Andy Garcia stars as Billy Herrera, a Cuban immigrant who arrived in America with a dollar in his pocket (details of his Horatio Alger story vary) and built an impressive architectural empire. He has been married to Ingrid (Gloria Estefan, who gives a low-key but captivating performance) for many years. She’s tired of being at the bottom of Billy’s to-do list. The pair have been in couples therapy for over a year and, after gaining some psychological traction, Ingrid decides it’s time for a divorce. There is absolutely no discord between father and wife in the story’s predecessors. But Billy and Ingrid are not the perfect couple. When their daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) announces she is getting married, Billy and Ingrid agree not to say anything about their separation until the wedding.
Kicking off proceedings with a divorce in the works is a weird starting point for a romantic comedy, and it’s an even weirder way to start a family comedy. Very little about Billy and Ingrid’s situation is played for laughs: these two people are very unhappy. Billy is also bothered that Sofia plans to marry her fiancé, Adan (Diego Boneta), after a very short courtship, and plans to move to Mexico with him to start a legal non-profit association. Billy worries that Adan is not a good provider, despite the fact that Sofia and Adan are not materialistic people. Billy’s inside shots fit more like the protagonist of an indie drama than a commercial comedy. The film goes on to question what it means to be a “man” in today’s society, as well as addressing the fact that success is defined differently across generations (especially for immigrants). These social issues are raised, but father of the bride nothing meaningful to say about them. It is as if boxes were checked.
There are some funny jokes and characters. Wedding planner Natalie (Chole Fineman) continues to refer to the family as LatinX, much to Billy’s confusion. Those close to Billy (led by the ever-incredible Ruben Ramos) continue to push for Billy to let Ramos’ band play at the wedding. (The musicians end up having more fun at the bachelor party than the groom!) Adan’s fabulously wealthy family is a lot more fun than Billy’s, especially his ex and current wife. father, who pretend to fight just to play with him. If only the movie had more of these playful scenes and characters – it spends too much time focusing on sourpuss Billy. The intense one-on-ones in most comedies don’t take place in a gentlemen’s club, and if they do, they’re not meant to be taken seriously.
The last act of father of the bride is the best of the movie, as the family members finally come together to plan the wedding they agreed on in the first place. It’s only in this third act that we get the mad energy so desperately needed earlier. Yet, inexplicably, the plot threads are left hanging. Why were characters, such as Sofia’s younger sister and her fashion designer dreams, introduced in the first place? It’s welcome to have a Latino-centric father of the bride, but it’s debatable whether we really needed one so awkwardly put together. Like so many Hollywood remakes, it’s an old story that doesn’t need recycling.
Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, North Carolina. In addition to writing for artistic fuseshe wrote for HQ Water Cooler, Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywoodand Matador Network, among other sites. His work has been included in the anthology Fury: Women’s experiences in the Trump era. She is currently a freshman candidate for the Fiction MFA at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. When she’s not writing, she dances, watches movies, travels or eats. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @SarahMinaOsman