The Good

The Bad

About 11 years ago I went to a wedding and for some reason I was there as they were setting up. The workers worked, the tables were set, the chairs were put out and there was a movie being projected against the wall the entire time. This movie was Father of the Bride. I stood back and watched as the workers stole glances of film as they did their jobs. As the film continued to play, certain family members of both the bride and the groom would come over, watch some moments of the film, laugh and then talk about how much they “loved” this movie. It was at this moment that I realized if a movie had the ability to be part of an actual wedding it really had to be a special film.

I originally saw Father of the Bride back in 1991. As an 18 year old lad, I liked the movie but I don’t think I fully appreciated it. Screening it several times over the years and now again for this review, I really can understand how special of a film this is. Every performance of this movie is pitch perfect. From Steve Martin’s reluctance to get behind the wedding, to Diane Keaton’s motherliness at smoothing things over, to Martin Short’s inspired and lively performance as the wedding planner everyone is great. This is one of those films that you can watch again and again. It never gets old, it never gets stale and oftentimes it seems like over the years the laughs actually increase. There is such a goodhearted warmth and tenderness to this movie, that I think should I ever commit marriage, I would like to have this movie playing before the nuptials begin.

I think that a movie like this deserves to be listed among the best American films ever made. It has such a reverence for tradition and family, yet it isn’t exclusive. Yeah, it’s about a man and a women getting married, but the story goes so much more beyond that. It looks at getting older, of dealing with the fact that kids grow up and how like it or not our lives are always going to change. It is a very special film that can incorporates such serious themes, and bring across their message and poignancy through laughter.

Features

An Invitation to Father of the Bride

This is a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie. The director and actors talk about the material, why they wanted to make it and all the other litany of things we have come to expect from these featurette pieces. I really like how Steve Martin talks about the use of “tender moments” with comedy. I think that this is really at the heart of what Father of the Bride is truly about. Nothing really too amazing with this piece but it is interesting seeing a “making of” for a film that is 15 years old.

Steve Martin and Martin Short Interview Each Other

There are times when you get two funny people together and they are hilarious. There are times when you get them together and it doesn’t work. This piece has sort of an uncomfortable hybrid between these two worlds. I didn’t really find myself laughing as much as I found myself waiting and wishing that this piece was funnier. It isn’t bad it just isn’t these two comic talents nearly at their best.

Audio Commentary with Director/Screenwriter Charles Shyer

You gotta love a commentary that begins with the director admitting that he hasn’t seen his own film in 13 years. I really liked this because you get the feeling that Shyer is really watching this movie with fresh eyes. He’s having to remember things about the movie as he’s remembering the movie itself. It was really interesting for me because we are not getting a director who has been slaving over this movie and then finishes up with the director’s commentary (if that’s even have they do it). We are getting a man with a fresh take on his own film and it really adds something and enhances this commentary greatly.

Video

Widescreen (1.85:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. Sure this film came out in the early 1990s, but it really doesn’t look that dated. I don’t think that this has anything to do with the crystal clearness of the DVD transfers, or how the movie was compressed. This movie is timeless. I mean sure there are references to things that are obviously in the past, but for the most part, I found that this movie holds up quite well. The amazing thing is how Steve Martin doesn’t look any different but I think that that is a question for another place and time. There is a warmness to this film that really is captured nicely on this DVD. You can tell that other people feel that this is an important movie, and it shows in how nicely this film looks on the small screen. Even watching it on my tiny TV set, I don’t think that any of the bigness of this film is missing. Sure, it may not be a “big” film per se, but it’s a well done look at something many families go through and it’s nice that after all these years it has really stood the test of time.

Audio

Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. It isn’t like this movie has some great sound design, but it does sound very good. There are the obligatory moments of music to let us know what we should be feeling (the basketball scene the night before the wedding is particularly moving), but on the whole I feel that this movie does a very good job of not falling into being sappy or melodramatic. I think it is highly sentimental but at the end of the day what is wrong with being sentimental? Have we really reached a point in our “ironic” society where we can’t be sentimental? Where we can’t have a reverence for things and for times past? Doesn’t having a profound respect for what came before really give us good foothold on dealing with the present and the future? Okay, I am moving off the subject here, but I truly feel that sound has such a hand in bringing these emotions to the surface. I think mixed with the images we are able to deal with things through movies that we might not be so good at dealing with in our own lives. Sometimes I don’t like sound “telling me how to feel”, but I just found for the most part Father of the Bride gets it just right.

Package

This packaging has been designed so that this DVD cover looks like a wedding invitation. The colors and designs on the front cover have a real “wedding” look. In the middle is a picture of the reluctant Steve Martin getting a kiss from his daughter. The back features some small pictures from the film, a description of the movie, a DVD extras listing and the tech specs for the DVD. This packaging isn’t that amazing, but it really does a good job of capturing the look and feel of a “wedding” movie. It has a warmth and a genuineness and I think it’s going to do very well on video. Sure, I don’t know that the audience for this movie really cares about special editions (they might just be happy with the copy of this movie they already have on DVD), I think that hardcore fans of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Diane Keaton will appreciate the tiny bells and whistles this Special Edition offers up.

Final Word

I look at Father of the Bride much differently now then when I was 18 years old. Getting on in years as I am, I have a certain warm place in my heart for this movie. I know I am not father and I am more like the young kids in the movie then I am Steve Martin, but I guess when I watch this film I really key into how much life does change. I have always admired how easily some people seem to go through the different phases of life. They get older, they have relationships, get married, leave home and it all comes so easily for them. While I have done some of these things, I really key into Steve Martin’s sense of himself throughout the entire film. How he knows that change is coming and he accepts it, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to try and sabotage it so he can hold on a little longer.

Eventually, like everyone else he gets with the program but it sure is a rough road getting there sometimes. This to me is what Father of the Bride is all about.

Father of the Bride was released December 20, 1991.