“The Corpse Bride” (2005)
Animated movies, particularly those popularized following the second Disney Renaissance of the late eighties and early nineties, have a tendency to end with a wedding – the prince and the princess finally overcome the odds and get together, in a big crescendo of an animated wedding where every character from the movie (good or bad) probably has a seat. With Tim Burton's darkly-hued animated film "The Corpse Bride," based on a Russian folktale and given a typically creaky Hammer movie overlay by Burton and co-director Mike Johnson, the wedding is the thing to be avoided at all costs. A young man (Johnny Depp) is set to be wed (to Emily Watson) but, getting cold feet, flees into the forest, where he accidentally slips and places his wedding ring on the finger of a zombie-ish corpse bride (Helena Bonham Carter). The bride herself, of course, has a tragic backstory (as recited in the wonderful "Remains of the Day" musical number) – she was conned and married a criminal who then robbed and murdered her – which adds even more darkness to a movie that could already only tenuously be described as a "kid's movie." The movie gets a lot of jabs in at the institution of marriage (when Watson expresses fears that she won't like her arranged husband, her mother shouts back, "Since when did that have anything to do with marriage?") and climaxes in a wonderfully ghoulish wedding ceremony, where the undead characters invade the land of the living, that's full of Haunted Mansion-esque creepy crawlies. "The Corpse Bride" was shot on consumer grade digital cameras in an effort to speed along the time-intensive stop motion process, so chances are your wedding was photographed with more sophisticated equipment.
“Rachel Getting Married” (2008)
Director Jonathan Demme, even when immersed in some high-concept genre contraption, is always more interested in what's going on in the margins of the scene – the people and places that flit by while the main thrust of the movie chugs along. So what makes "Rachel Getting Married" such a blast of pure, unadulterated Demme, for better or worse, is that he gets to set the entire movie in those margins – in this case the boho wedding of Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) in upscale suburban Connecticut. Of course, even though it's called "Rachel Getting Married," it's more about Kym (Anne Hathaway), Rachel's sister, who was released from rehab for the wedding. Kym is one of those characters who says what she thinks (and thinks what she feels), without any sort of filter. There are a number of explosive outbursts from Kym, each one realized in painfully relatable detail, and even if Demme sometimes gets lost in his own indie movie doodles (there's a lot of ethnic music played for reasons that are never made quite clear), there are enough standout sequences, particularly involving the girls' mother, played by Debra Winger, to make "Rachel Getting Married" a singularly powerful experience. This isn't a fluffy light slice of wedding cake, this is more like the hard top of the cake that you've saved in your freezer for thirty years and when you try to take a bite, it cuts your gums. "Rachel Getting Married" stings.
What's so ingenious about Paul Feig's surprise smash is how little attention is actually paid to the wedding (when it finally happens it's more of a gag-laden afterthought) – the movie is all about the lead-up to the wedding, where friendships fray and emotions run high. Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a woman still living at home, whose failed business and failed relationship have left her somewhat bitter and depressed. It doesn't help that her newly engaged best friend (Maya Rudolph) has taken on a lavish new friend (Rose Byrne), who makes Annie feel absolutely horrible about herself. The reason "Bridesmaids" works so well is that it exposes all the ugly emotions that bubble up during what is supposedly such a joyful time – petty jealousy, insecurity, self-doubt, and general horribleness. Wiig is so likeable, even when she has a total breakdown, that you can't help but root for her. The Rose Byrne character never veers into the waters of cartoonish super-villainy; she really is just trying to help, but in the most misguided way possible. And unlike most comedies of its kind, she isn't "fixed" at the end with her own wedding – there's just a quiet understanding between the women that their behavior was appalling, with an agreement that they won't treat each other that way again. "Bridesmaids" celebrates the complexity of female relationships instead of trying to push it under the rug – or fitting it into the whitewashed box of a typical studio romantic comedy.
“In & Out” (1997)
Inspired by Tom Hanks' 1994 Oscar speech, when the actor mentioned his gay high school drama coach while accepting the award for his performance in "Philadelphia," Paul Rudnick's ingeniously clever script for "In & Out" imagines what would happen if that drama teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) was living life as a straight man, only to be outed by his famous former student (in this case Matt Dillon). Rudnick and the perennially underrated Frank Oz milk the set-up for maximum comedic effect, juggling a number of hilarious subplots, including the reaction of the town (including a principal played by Bob Newhart), the fact that Howard is engaged to be wed (to a pitch-perfect Joan Cusack) and the impending media coverage that descends on their sleepy town (led by Tom Selleck's anchorman). The wedding is in everyone's mind and is the main catalyst for Howard attempting to appear "straight" (including listening to an audio book to increase his manliness) throughout much of the film. (The wedding finally does happen, but it's a renewal of vows by Howard's parents, played by Wilford Brimley and Debbie Reynolds! Old school Hollywood royalty!) Oz directs Rudnick's note-perfect script with a lightness of touch, emphasizing the good-natured humor and sweetness of the piece, turning it into a kind of gay Frank Capra movie. What's so funny, looking back on the film now, is that it still seems sort of ahead of its time, with few Hollywood movies even touching gay subject matter and even fewer still celebrating homosexuality in a way that seems so fizzy and positive.
And if you're still feeling lovey-dovey and want to watch some more wedding movies – there are plenty more to choose from. Most obvious is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," the surprise smash about a clash of cultures that broke box office records while befuddling those of us who want our wedding dishes more filet mignon and less Wendy's hamburger (opa!); "27 Dresses," which uncomfortably reinforces rigidly stereotypical views of women while star Katherine Heigl attempts to look life-like (but, at the very least, it isn't as nasty as "Bride Wars"); Carl Reiner's almost instantly-forgotten "That Old Feeling," about a pair of divorced parents (Bette Milder and Dennis Farina) whose romance is rekindled by their daughter's vows; and, while it isn't explicitly about a wedding, "The Muppets Take Manhattan," which has one of the greatest (and most Muppet-filled) wedding sequences in the history of motion pictures.
What wedding favorites did we forget to invite? And whose RSVPs should we have rejected? Let us know below! - Drew Taylor, Diana Drumm, Gabe Toro, Kristen Lopez, Samantha Chater, Kieran McMahon, Erik McClanahan, Kevin Jagernauth.