DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WEDDING BAND (director/writer: Martin Guigui; cinematographer: Massimo Zeri; cast: Deborah Gibson (Lisa Weinstein (bride)), Dom DeLuise (Priest), Martin Guigui (Max Tune), Joey Scherr (Bobby Benigni), Susanna Voltare (Diane Dare), Bernard Sanders (The Rabbi), Kelly Bishop (Sylvia Weinstein), Les Shenkel (Irving Weinstein), Vinnie DiToma (Vic DeMan), Chad Hollister (Hebber Stebber), Mo Gaffney (Sybil Radzinski), Jon Fishman (Drummer), Vinnie Vella (The Groom's Father); Bird Wolf / Matonti FIlms; 1999)

 
"A vulgar ethnic comedy about a Jewish-Italian wedding."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A vulgar ethnic comedy about a Jewish-Italian wedding, whose detractions are that some of the scenes could have been better edited, the jokes are lame, and the script is too threadbare. Stereotypical Jewish and Italian characters rule the Long Island catered reception party of the wedding of Lisa Weinstein (Deborah Gibson (Pop Star)) to Bobby Benigni (Joey Scherr).

The overbearing, familiar Jewish mother-type, Sylvia Weinstein (Bishop), is in charge of the Weinstein-Benigni wedding reception. She is first seen screaming at the band leader: "Why are you late, where in the contract does it say we're paying you to be late?" Max Tune (Martin Guigui), the band leader, retorts "In the part that says working for cheap." Later on Sylvia's wrath turns on the caterers as she is fussing that she ordered 'surf and turf,' but the caterers did not give her any 'turf.'

Everyone in the film is zany, each character does their own comedy shtick. There is wide use of profanity throughout and at the most surprising times, like when the groom's father (Vella) is giving a toast. When not using profanity he says Italians have little self-control when it comes to women, so he doesn't expect his son to remain loyal even though he should because Lisa's a nice girl.

Since it is a Vermont made indie (filmed on Lake Champlain), the filmmaker got that state's congressman, Bernie Sanders, to play a bit part, as a rabbi named Manny Shevitz (like the Jewish wine). Bernie can't stay focused on the congratulatory speech he is offering the couple and rambles on about the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving New York.

It is obvious that Martin Guigui--the director, writer, and lead actor in the film--knows something about wedding receptions, as this film is based on his experiences as a musician for 20-years -- where he played at many a reception.

The minimal plot has Max Tune play at the wedding reception of his former girlfriend. He will try to win her back even though she just got married. She is unaware that her husband has already been cheating with Diane Dare (Susanna Voltare), her maid of honor and best friend, at his bachelor's party last night. Diane, feeling guilty, gets inebriated on tequila, deciding how she is to tell this to Lisa, someone she has never lied to before.

The film opens with a quote by H.L. Mencken: "Marriage is a worthwhile institution, but would you want to live the rest of your life in an institution!"

The wedding reception is one continuous absurdity. Dom DeLuise is an embarrassed looking priest fitting right in with all the other oddball guests as he offers solicited and unsolicited advice, and fights off a woman guest who wants his body. Vic DeMan (Vinny De Toma) has positioned himself by the bar, he's an inept pick-up artist; Hebber Stebber is a stoned-out freak who can't talk clearly. He is the lead singer for the misfit band, a band that doesn't know the lyrics for the songs it is asked to sing.

Another absurd moment is when Bobby and Lisa are arguing about the affair in the men's room as both families eavesdrop on the newlyweds in the lady's room, where the air conditioning ducts allow them to hear their every word.

There is a clash of cultures as the guests offer toasts to the couple. The Jews are thought of as the ones who make the money, but the Italians as the ones who take it away from them. At least, one ethnic group is not treated any worse than the other. Each culture gets a chance to show how they can act coarser than the other.

Poking fun at tradition, the band's rendition of "Hava Negila" has a ten minute drum solo by a hirsute guy in a girl's pink dress (Fishman).

The ending does not resolve things. The question becomes Who does Lisa love?

Lisa has a great smile and a star quality, she brings comedy and warmth to the role; she even gets a chance to sing.

The cast was likable but not memorable. But, for a film with a limited budget and limited aims, it served its limited purpose adequately. It was funny from beginning to end, but in a perverse way. This lighthearted farce is not suited for all tastes because of all the profanity.

REVIEWED ON 2/11/2000          GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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