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No sparks in 'Wedding Planner'

Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey trade too much on their star power to make this predictable story into a sweet romantic comedy.

By PHILIP BOOTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001


Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis, credited with penning the script for the desperately unfunny, emotionally flat romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, must have had a flash of inspiration not so long ago: What would happen if a workaholic, no-nonsense nuptials coordinator fell in love with one of her clients, and the romance threatened to destroy a lucrative deal, not to mention said planner's fast-rising career? Imagine the complications that would ensue. Consider the hijinks that might erupt. Funsville.

The concept wasn't quite so fertile, or maybe all the good stuff evaporated on the way to the big screen, with the help of Adam Shankman, an experienced film choreographer (Mission To Mars; Isn't She Great) whose directorial debut came with 1998's little-seen Cosmo's Tale.

The result, either way, is as dull a date movie as anything since the most recent batch of bad young-love flicks starring Freddie Prinze Jr. The fact that the lead characters are played by older, more accomplished actors doesn't make much of a difference. It's the same old paint-by-numbers stuff, livened up with some gorgeous San Francisco backdrops but still a cut below wedding-themed comedies such as Father of the Bride, My Best Friend's Wedding and The Bachelor.

Much of the blame for the utter blandness of the picture goes to Jennifer Lopez, as Mary, the uptight, once-burned titular character, and Matthew McConaughey, as Steve, the gentle pediatrician who saves Mary's life in a contrived sequence involving a runaway garbage Dumpster.

Lopez, the part-time pop star oozing with sexy, tough star quality in Out of Sight and Selena, was little more than a stunning fashion statement in last year's The Cell. And she mostly walks through her role in The Wedding Planner, attempting to suspend disbelief as a sweet Miss Lonely Hearts. Given to spending evenings alone, she eats dinner while watching Antiques Roadshow, cleans her tidy apartment, folds laundry and goes to sleep.

McConaughey, such a find in Dazed and Confused and so effective in Contact and Edtv, this time relies on low-grade charm and that disarming Texas accent for a performance that's middling at best. The actors' chemistry is negligible, and they do little to elevate a story line that calls for arguments, misunderstandings, a drunken breakdown (hers) and a second heroic action (his). More sparks erupt between Steve and the society-girl fiance played by Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (House on Haunted Hill, cable TV's The $treet), than between the newfound soul mates.

Justin Chambers (Liberty Heights), as a young, recently arrived Italian immigrant relentlessly pursuing Mary's affections, steals scenes whenever he's on camera, issuing declarations of puppy love and mangling his English in a sweet, comic manner that might remind some of Roberto Benigni. The movie's Least Valuable Player is Alex Rocco (Get Shorty, The Godfather), as Mary's misguided but well-intentioned father. Rocco's accent is so incompetent that his character comes off as mentally impaired. One guesses that wasn't the intention.

MOVIE REVIEW

The Wedding Planner

Grade: C-

Director: Adam Shankman

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Justin Chambers, Judy Greer, Kathy Najimy, Alex Rocco, Joanna Gleason, Charles Kimbrough.

Screenplay: Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis

Rating: PG-13; mild profanity; sexual innuendo

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