It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The most surprising discovery audiences are making about Steve Martin at this stage of his career is that he is a warm actor - warm, and yet not ingratiating. My image of Martin, formed from his stage persona and his early movies, was of a chilly wise-guy of undeniable intelligence but little empathy. And yet look at his best recent screen roles, in the movies "Parenthood," "L.A. Story" and now "Father of the Bride." He's one of the most empathetic men on the screen.
In "Father of the Bride," his character is inspired by a 1950 Spencer Tracy role, and it's fair to say he is as likable as Tracy. Perhaps more to the point, he plays a role much like the one played by Alan Alda in "Betsy's Wedding," and although Alda has made a career out of playing nice guys and usually does it convincingly, I liked Martin better.
The screenplay is predictable, and if you've seen the trailer you have, in some sense, seen the movie. The screenplay is based on confirmations, not surprises; everything we think will happen, does. In that sense it is like a successful wedding. Martin and Diane Keaton play the rather amazingly happily married parents of a young woman (Kimberly Williams) and a small boy (Kieran , of the Culkin child dynasty). Their daughter goes off to study in Europe for a semester, and comes home glowing with joy and announcing her engagement. The father of the bride is not pleased by the prospect of losing his little girl. He is even less pleased when he finds out what the wedding will cost.
A recent newspaper story about the escalating costs of weddings told of a father who offered his daughter a choice: A nice ceremony, or a condo. This is not far off. The wedding in "Father of the Bride" is priced out at $250 a head, and of course the bare minimum guest list initially comes to something like 600 people. At this point, in one of the movie's funniest scenes, Martin and Keaton join Williams in going through their card file, seeing who they can leave out. ("He died? That's great!") Martin Short has a hilarious star character role as Franck Eggelhoffer, the wedding coordinator, who speaks with an accent that seems to be part central European and part nasal congestion, and who agrees wholeheartedly that the wedding should not be too fancy, although his definition of moderation somehow includes three live swans. He handles Martin almost with pity; from long experience, he knows what the father is in for, and forgives him even the tuxedo which Martin insists is a black Armani and the coordinator has good reason to believe is dark blue polyester.