Father of the Bride (1991)

(On TV, April 2017) Steve Martin as a goofy-ish dad trying to weather the storm of his daughter’s upper-crust wedding is a guaranteed middle-of-the-road comic premise. So it’s not really surprising to see him in Father of the Bride undergoing an episodic accumulation of everything that can go wrong in planning a wedding, from trivial details blown up to gigantic proportions to bad weather to money matters. It’s all in the mandatory elements of such a premise, and Martin is a good sport for going through it all. This aspect of Father of the Bride isn’t surprising, and it’s best to ignore the cavalcade of coincidences and contrivances that power the script. I expected as much. On the other hand, what I didn’t expect was the gradual poignancy, in-between the goofy slapstick, of a father having to deal with the departure of his only daughter, giving her away to her new husband. While the opening monologue can be mistaken for a comic setup, there are some good heartfelt moments late in the movie as the melancholy of seeing his daughter leave the house finally hits our protagonist. It’s all the more surprising given that the film seemed perfectly happy operating in silly mode, with Martin mugging for the camera in-between familiar comic sequences. Father of the Bride is better than expected largely because it can catch audiences (and, specifically, fathers) unaware and defenseless. Call it a happy surprise.

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