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'Wedding Crashers' starts off as a sick, hilarious comedy before turning into a wannabe date movie

Wedding Crashers starts off as a nasty, immoral comic romp, serving up some of the best R-rated humor since Old School. As it progresses, it gets a little afraid of itself and degenerates into your typical guy-gets-girl story. Before it falters, the movie generates some pretty funny, sick comedy.

Jeremy and John (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) are a couple of major assholes. They spend wedding season crashing nuptials, lying about their identities and having sex with countless women, qualifying them as supreme letches. During this phase of the film, things are at their best. They deliver shockingly profane humor with a smooth innocence that makes the most politically incorrect stuff seem OK within the context of the film.

When John sees a bridesmaid who is cool enough to laugh during the bride's lame wedding vows, he falls in love and starts breaking all the rules the crashers have put into effect to preserve their titles as noncommittal heathens. Rachel McAdams plays Claire, daughter of Treasury Secretary William Cleary (an underutilized Christopher Walken). Her sunny spirit is inexplicably set to marry Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper), a highly competitive, tremendous lout.

John begins a hot pursuit of Claire while still under his false identity, and Jeremy winds up having sex on a beach with Claire's sister Gloria (Isla Fisher). Gloria turns out to be a "clinger," demanding that the men come to her father's house for a visit, setting the table for an awkward family vacation. Jeremy wants to run like hell, but John is on a corny mission to secure Claire's affections, so off they go.

As the film deals more with the budding relationship between John and Claire, and spends less time on Wilson and Vaughn being evil, it loses some comic focus. The scenes between Vaughn and Fisher, especially one where he is tied to a bed, are big laugh-getters. Sadly, it becomes obvious that Wedding Crashers is determined to be a nice date movie and a raunchy comedy all in one, and that's not the best of combinations. There's nothing wrong with a nice movie, but this one starts feeling sappy, like just about every other movie with the word "wedding" in its title.

Vaughn, always funny, is at his best up until the film's final act when his character goes soft. Besides his penchant for unabashed profanity, the character of Jeremy provides Vaughn with an opportunity to display hitherto unseen physical comic abilities. When he takes a solid hit during a particularly violent family touch-football game, he writhes in pain in a manner that would make Jim Carrey proud.

To put it in simple terms, these guys deserve to die in a fiery car crash, but screenwriters Steve Faber and Bob Fisher cop out, wrapping up the film with a tight little pink bow. The spirit of this film is so gonzo in its first half that it is truly regrettable when it tries to jerk the tears. I kept expecting for the film to give the guys a taste of their own malicious medicine, but everybody just makes nice in the end.

McAdams burns a hole in the screen every time she is on it. She makes the most out of Claire, creating an endearing character despite her romantic ineptitude. Isla Fisher reveals herself as a true comic talent, turning Gloria into a memorably psychotic supporting character. As Claire's artistic and angry brother, Keir O'Donnell has a couple of scene-stealing moments.

There's no denying that Wilson and Vaughn have terrific comic chemistry. They provide enough laughs to garner a slight recommendation for Wedding Crashers, but that's a very slight recommendation. It's almost two hours long, and about 80 minutes of it are good, which constitutes a majority. You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll get annoyed, and then you probably forgive, because Vince Vaughn is hilarious.

Wedding Crashers
Rated NR

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