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Father of the Bride (1991)

CRUMBLIES…4 crumblies

I know it’s a remake, so shut up.

It’s a Steve Martin film and – back in the day – I bloody loved him. Planes, Trains and a dash of Roxanne meant the late ’80s weren’t a complete washout of puerile films tailored to gore and goo fans. Old Jack here never really understood Martin’s stand-up stuff, what with it making his name in the States. And involving banjos. But his film work, not least when he got control of the script, characters and schmaltz, played to what middle-age was doing to my soul. Slapping it. A lot. And in this film, he caught what I knew would be the angst of letting some knuckle-dragging berk woo young Jacketta out of the house and my life. Not that we were ever as close as Martin and his daughter. Jacketta was a goth from age 7 and her raven wouldn’t let us talk let alone hug.

So, one wet Tuesday, the old folk gathered in the TV room to remember what it was like to be Father of the Bride.

Oh, it’s silly, and emotional, and funny. Steve Martin has a cheerily loving daughter, just back from Europe, who is 22 and in love. She announces at dinner that she is engaged to a boy she has known for 90 days. Martin takes it as well as any rational father should, raging against the dying of sanity and reason. Of course, he’s married to Diane Keaton who is in full-on sweetheart and delicately-pointing-out-your-hypocrisy mode, for George and Nina Banks’ love was even faster paced…

Their daughter Annie is all light and lovely, Kimberly Williams pitching things nicely between Martin and Keaton. Her beau is a blank-faced ’80s boy, if you ask old Jack here, but I guess that’s a thing of skill, so kudos to George Newbern who plays the horrifically named Bryan.

Of course, this is all about the indignity of having to give away your child to madness. Old Jack here remembers the sharp awfulness of Jacketta’s first five lovers – and their families. Ugh. All mullets that stained the sofa and white-string vests. Here, Steve Martin has nothing to complain about, so he is his own demise when he and Keaton go to the Christ-Alive-Bryan’s-family-are-rich house. Martin sneaks around, trying to be appalled at the wealth, before the Dobermans and swimming pool give us a laugh.

The film sags a bit at this point. The whole TV room realised…hmmm…this has nowhere to go, really. So there’s no real shock when Martin Short turns up as Caricature in Chief: wedding planner, Franck, camp and snotty, verbally incomprehensible to all but Annie and her Mum. Steve Martin in turn goes nuts at the things he’s having to pay for (revealed through a bread-based breakdown in the supermarket and jail time). And then – post a faux row between the kids – the wedding day arrives…

This sounds awful written down, but, you know what, old Jack here loves the memory of Martin’s work, the deftness in the comedy here, and the emotional through line that had me in tears at the credits. Yes, predictable. Yes, pat. Yes, dragging the jokes from unnatural caricature, our hero’s hubris and grouchiness. But…

…there’s a thing a father knows on his daughter’s wedding day. For all the glamour and speeches, sparkle and location, family faces and energised children’s friends…it’s a loss. An awful, agonising loss you know is coming from the day they hand her to you, mewling and shitting tar, and you simply recognise this little girl, and there….just there…in that moment…is all the love you have to give.

The film has dated, but the emotions haven’t. Give it a go.

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