Do not see these two terrible movies
by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Just ahead of the summer blockbuster clusterfuck, Hollywood has dumped two tone-deaf flicks into a theatre near you. Pain & Gain and The Big Wedding are offensive on every level, but especially to your intelligence. These two films are so ineptly made that their comedic take on race and sexual politics would need to grow up before it could be called juvenile.
Pain & Gain is the lesser offender, but only because director Michael Bay surrounds himself with people who are moderately good at their jobs, like Mark Wahlberg. The scenario (three bodybuilders in pursuit of the American dream engage in an ever-escalating rampage of illegal shenanigans) is a mere excuse for Bay to indulge in black, obvious humour and rampant misogyny (the two main female characters are a dimwitted stripper and an overweight sexaholic).
There are no big explosions or shiny Transformers in Pain & Gain for Bay to hide his storyteller shortcomings behind. As the (inspired by real-life) plot gets darker and darker, the man responsible for Pearl Harbor and Armageddon sticks with the obviously inappropriate comedic tone — although with plenty of voiceovers — apparently to give the impression he’s doing something noir. Nobody’s buying it. Just go back to your robots, Michael.
Diving further into the circles of movie hell you’ll find The Big Wedding, a career low for everybody involved: see Hollywood legends Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton as pratfall-prone free spirits! See Topher Grace as a 30-year-old virgin! See Katherine Heigl as a tightly wound career woman — again!
The story could have worked… in the ’80s. A couple of divorced baby boomers must pretend they’re still married for the sake of their soon-to-be-wed adoptive son, Alejandro, whose Colombian birth mother is coming to the ceremony (shades of the immensely superior The Birdcage).
The fact the kid is played by Britain’s Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian!) with a tan is somehow the least insulting aspect of this horrid flick. The treatment of the South American characters is patronizing at best, openly racist at worst (chimichangas and Telemundo are referenced as cornerstones of Latino identity). Alejandro’s mother is portrayed as a Mel Gibson-calibre conservative, while his sister is your stereotypical hot-to-trot Sofia-Vergara-type who’ll disrobe at the first opportunity. In fact, that’s EXACTLY what happens. Sigh.
This brand of humour may work as satire (the J.Lo episode of South Park is a masterpiece, for example), but in the context of a Katherine Heigl comedy, it’s very hard to stomach. The only reason I didn’t leave the theatre was because I was curious how bad it would get. Towards the end, The Big Wedding becomes a feeble Frasier knockoff, which still beats the reactionary setup that precedes it. Avoid at all costs.