Remaking a classic is a hazardous affair, and usually the updating isn't really as relevant as the filmmakers think. But with "Father of the Bride," director Charles Shyer and his co-writing/producing partner Nancy Meyers have managed to bring the story of the 1950 film into the '90s, remain faithful to the source material and still make an up-to-date, warm comedy.
Those who fondly remember the first film, with Spencer Tracy as the title character and Elizabeth Taylor as his daughter, may not take to this remake as readily as those less familiar with the original (which actually sprang from a novel). But there's inspired casting in Steve Martin as the father, giving the material a comic edge and demonstrating his maturity as an actor as he confronts the age-old problem of letting go when his daughter announces she is going to be married.
The story is a simple one, as Martin finds he's quite reluctant to see that his daughter has grown up and is giving her affections to another man, and then demonstrates his bewilderment as he is plunged into the wedding plans and sees his life turned upside-down, not to mention the pressure to spend zillions of dollars on what gradually snowballs into a major event.
This isn't a movie full of witty one-liners or hilarious set-pieces, though there are some of both. It's more a warm-hearted look at a modern family coping with an ancient tradition, with some farcical elements thrown in. The latter include a hilarious scene where Martin and his wife (Diane Keaton) visit the parents of their son-in-law-to-be and Martin finds himself caught in a series of dumb reactions leading to disaster, and the character of a flamboyant wedding coordinator who has a ridiculous accent (Martin Short).
There are some hearty laughs here, along with some telling, universal moments, and an impressive ensemble quality to the cast including newcomer Kimberly Williams as the bride, young Kieran Culkin (Macaulay's younger brother), Short and his assistant B.D. Wong, Diane Keaton (though her role is relatively meager) and, of course, Martin.
Shyer and Meyers, who also gave us "Baby Boom" and "Private Benjamin," have a nice light touch and an obvious affection for the material here.
"Father of the Bride" is very much a family film, with only a single vulgar remark accounting for the PG rating.
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