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'Father of the Bride' Review: Latinx and Mexican Rich People Problems
Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan lead a romantic comedy remake that feels very old fashioned. Now streaming on HBO Max.
Spencer Tracy, Steve Martin and now Andy Garcia have portrayed the titular character in movies that have spanned the decades.
First published in 1949, Edward Streeter's novel was swiftly adapted for the screen by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, a married couple known for their Academy Award-nominated screenplays of The Thin Man and After the Thin Man. They nabbed an Oscar nomination for Father of the Bride (1950) and later for the great romantic musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1955). Spencer Tracy's comic performance as the gruff but tender, somewhat bewildered father of Elizabeth Taylor captured the spirit of the early post-World War II generation.
In my younger days, I enjoyed watching the first version multiple times on television, but times change and I was ready for Steve Martin's interpretation of the character in 1991. Equally important to Martin's wildy comic performance was the sharp script by the team of Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers. As directed by veteran Shyer, it's a big, silly thing, with the added comic-acting benefits delivered by Diane Keaton, Martin Short and B.D. Wong.
Andy Garcia is not known as a comic actor and neither is Gloria Estefan, which probably makes them perfect casting for a new film that generally skews toward a more dramatic tone. Billy (Garcia) and Ingrid (Estefan) are a longtime married couple who have finally decided to get a divorce and wish to tell their two adult daughters immediately, only to learn that their eldest daughter, Sofia (Adria Arjona), just got engaged and wishes to marry her beloved Adan (Diego Boneta) before they depart for Mexico in just two months.
That calls for a whirlwind of preparations for the upcoming nuptials, which will be paid for by Billy; it's a custom and he insists upon it, which leads to him trying to throw his weight around, until Adan's family arrives from Mexico for an extended visit. Billy has made a very good living as a successful architect -- which is given as the root cause of not paying sufficient attention to the unhappy Ingrid -- but Adan's family is even wealthier.
Director Gaz Alazraki co-created and has often helmed the Mexican comedy series Club de Cuervos for Netflix and his experience shows here. He is very good at capturing the sporadic comedy bits, but is even more conscious of orchestrating extended sequences that emphasize the complexity of the arrangements that are being made.
Presented in a mixture of English and Spanish, the culture clashes come between Cuban and Mexican families and their varying traditions, which I enjoyed seeing in a feature-film setting. Writer Matt Lopez keeps a more serious approach to the material than I was expecting, but as the third screen version of a novel that is now more than 70 years old, it makes perfect sense.
The gentle changes that are made to modernize the characters and their actions all sound entirely reasonable. It makes for a pleasant experience; there's nothing earth-shattering or especially gripping about two wealthy families pooling their collective resources to celebrate a wedding, yet it feels safely inoffensive and entirely pleasant. There's nothing wrong with that. [HBO Max]