Though he's still trying to figure out why anyone would want to get married, Judge Bill Gibron thoroughly enjoyed this rom-com riff on the issue of same-sex nuptials
His Brother is Out. The Wedding is Off. The War is On.
When Ben (Eric Dane, Grey's Anatomy) gets engaged to Maggie, the daughter of Maine Gov. Conrad Welling (James Brolin, Pee Wee's Big Adventure), the bride-to-be's family decides to use his gay party planner brother Shel (John Stamos, Full House) to coordinate the shindig. Although Ben is uncomfortable with his out sibling, he agrees to ask. All goes smoothly until Welling's opponent in the upcoming statewide election decides to make homosexual marriage a constitutional issue. Naturally, the governor must take a position and, with Ben penning his speech, the result is yet another intolerant stance on the subject. When Shel finds out, he is livid. He loves his boyfriend Ted (Sean Maher, Firefly) and hates the fact that the government wants to tell him what to do. So he goes on strike, deciding not to complete the wedding plans. This leaves Ben and his betrothed up the creek without the makings of a paddle, and starts a chain reaction amongst the gay community and workforce in the area. Soon, Shel is joined by other sympathetic strikers and, no matter what tricks he pulls, Ben can't get him back on the job. With only two days left to go, it looks like the nuptials will be cancelled, along with most services nationwide. But both sides have just begun to fight and, as with most Wedding Wars, the battle isn't over until all options are exhausted.
Though you may hate yourself for liking it so much, Wedding Wars (which was seen in 2006 on A&E) is actually a wonderful romantic comedy. It is accented by the ongoing debate over gay marriage, and tends to play both sides of the issue for its own pro-PC message, but in the end, you really don't care about who wins. The battle between brothers and lovers is human, witty, and very emotional. In departing from the standard "beat us over the head" agenda-based narratives, screenwriter Stephen Mazur (Liar, Liar) and director Jim Fall (The Lizzie McGuire Movie) let the message meander around the edges of the action. It becomes an organic part of the storyline, and only gets overplayed once the showdown between gay and straight is resolved. Credit has to be given for how the movie finds its finale. Instead of pretending that there isn't opposition to homosexual unions, the stance is acknowledged for the power it possesses. But it is also ridiculed and refuted to the point where only the most conservative or religious of citizens would still claim it. Indeed, if one was to take away anything from Wedding Wars, besides a warm, fuzzy feeling and a few good giggles, it's that most anti-civil rights attitudes are based in political pandering, not an actual set of foundational beliefs on the part of the people running for public office (remember that come 2008).
Much of Wedding Wars success stems directly from the clever and creative cast. James Brolin does a decent job of making his constituency-conscious governor a sly old fox of a candidate. We know he's more liberal than the various stands he must take. The same goes with Eric Dane. He's the meathead who is ashamed of his brother's sexual orientation, but we never fully feel that he's 100 percent repulsed. Much of the movie's stubborn status quo-ness has to come from Dane's Ben, and he's terrific at projecting his mixed convictions. Speaking up for enlightened ladies everywhere, Bonnie Somerville is winning as bride-to-be Maggie. She's on the side of right—at least in her mind—and never oversells said belief. Sean Maher, as Shel's lover Ted, is aptly torn. A closeted professional, his decision to stay under the fray says a great deal about his own inconsistent feelings. That just leaves John Stamos, and the entire narrative rests on his relaxed, easygoing shoulders. He never minces or resorts to stereotypes, and yet there is never a moment when we fail to feel his "out"-there orientation. As a clear symbol that gay people are just the same as anyone else in society, he gives Wedding Wars its warmth and its heart. Without his flawless performance, we'd have a totally different film on our hands.
Because it so expertly balances propaganda with passion, since it never once goes overboard with either its manipulations or machinations, Wedding Wars truly gels. It comes together in one of those ways we rarely see in modern moviemaking. Mazur and Fall work hard to keep all plot threads in play, and pay extra attention to whether or not each one resolves itself in the end. Even the most obvious gag player in the entire storyline—a tacky wedding planner named Mrs. Farfield whose only taste is in her mouth—gets her concluding moment to shine. This is the kind of entertainment that leaves no stone unturned, a fully realized film that never overstates its case and expertly builds on its many advances. Whether or not you think gay marriage is a valid social concern, or even if you aren't interested in watching a film about homosexuals coming to terms with their heterosexual family members (and vice versa), Wedding Wars will win you over. It crackles with the kind of energy that makes it hard to ignore, while it subtly suggests that prejudice against individuals for their personal orientation is narrow minded and insensitive. Wedding Wars applies common sense where outright activism usually sits and is as impartial as possible, considering the subject. While some might condemn it as fluffy and superficial, Wedding Wars is actually wise beyond its parameters. The deeper meaning is there, if you simply allow it to play out right in front of your eyes.
The DVD version of this title is terrific. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks sensational, pulling off a big screen vibe on a small screen dynamic. The colors are crystal clear and the details are readily discernible. As for the aural aspects of the release, Sony spares no expense. They offer up a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that's light on immersion, but heavy on motion-picture mandates like clear dialogue and secure spatial ambience. As for added content, we are treated to a quick featurette focusing on the so-called "Truth" behind Wedding Wars. A combination of political platform (the producers directly discuss the issue of gay marriage) and electronic press kit (cast members come clean about their reasons for doing the film), the mini-doc is a delight, the perfect capper for a digital package presenting an excellent rom-com revamp.
Wedding Wars may not change many minds, and there will always be critics who complain about marginalizing material for the sake of a "softer" story. But this is one of the rare cases where cause meets up with comedy exceptionally well. The only battle remaining after this war is why such a sensational truce was so long in coming.
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• "Gays on Strike: The Truth about Wedding Wars" Featurette
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