Starring: Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Adrea Arjonea, Diego Boneta, Isabela Merced, Marta Velasco, Ruben Rubaso, Ana Fabriga, Chloe Feinman, Pedro Damian, Enrique Merciano, and Laura Harring.
Directed By: Gary Lazurki
Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: Laura Post, featuring addition narration from Jedidiah Barton, William Michael Redman, and and Jennifer James.
The Plot: George Banks is no more. Now, our titular father is Billy Herrara (Garcia), and if you’ve ever seen Father of the Bride, you can jsut toss that useless knowledge right out the damn window. This remake doesn’t just swap Latinx in for caucasians, it actually did an inspired modern take, totally fresh, that doesn’t follow beat for beat the previous entries. Billy is an architect in south Florida who has built his career and wealth, supporting his family, yet somehow managing to let his own marriage fall apart, and when we first meet him, he’s in marriage counseling with his wife (Estefan), and things look bleak. They intend to tell their family they are getting a divorce at the family dinner, but when their oldest daughter comes back to town for a visit with some big news, not only does this add a layer of stress to our Father Of the Bride, but perhaps it gives him a second shot at remembering the person he once was.
What Works: First, I’ll admit that I was rolling my eyes at the idea of another adaptation of this property. Where the Steve Martin version followed beat-for-beat the original concept pretty close, this one acts like there was no previous Father Of THe Bride, and its writing this all from scratch. It is very much its own thing, in many ways. Instead of having a happy married couple at the center, our Herrera clan in deeply flawed. Billy is a curmudgeon, and it’s become the thing his wife despises about him. She still has a passion for life, and wants to live it, but billy just wants to watch the Fishing channel.
Meanwhile, the modern take on this story is everywhere. Our bride is a successful lawyer in her own right, and ended up proposing herself, something that shocks her father to the core. Aren’t men supposed to do that? And her new beau is Mexican, which cracks open this dynamic between competing Latinx ethnicities about whose culture is richer, and who, for lack of a better word, is more Hispanic. Or the better kind of Hispanic. There are little barbs thrown between the competing fathers in this situation, as the groom’s father is insanely rich, and embraces his Mexican traditions, while Billy spends most of his time mocking them.
And then there’s Cora, the other daughter, who has dreams of her own, a potential love life of her own, but is laser focused finally on what she wants to do for her career, but spends most of the film trying to prove her worth to her father. One of the strengths of this film is that it embraces the idea of having a large family with dynamic and diverse members, that all play a vital role in telling this story, so it isn’t so reliant on billy. Sure, he’s centered in the conversations, but the herrara family is quite extended, and it adds a lot to the film.
Bilingual audiences should love the substantial amount of dialogue in Spanish, and also the frank conversations about why they speak English sometimes over speaking Spanish. It might feel a little like culture for dummies, but that’s just a signal that you don’t watch enough films like this, until they star some Latino you’re comfortable with like Andy Garcia.
What Doesn’t Work: Having crammed all the Father Of The Bride material into a short period, I still say that my preference is Steve Martin’s version. Not because I’m white, so I feel more comfortable with the whiteness of the script, but rather what Martin did was take Spencer Tracy’s version, and not just modernize it, but he really brought more comedy into a franchise that actually can be funny if allowed to be. The truth is, Martin injected what was played more dramatically by Tracy and Garcia with a bit of silly fun. He hung out of a second floor window. He was chased by Dobermans. Martin is a king of physical comedy, and that’s what he brought with him to his film that endeared many, and has kept that version standing the test of time. Also, Martin Short’s outlandish and memorable wedding planner is simply unmatchable in either of the other versions. In 1950’s, a character like Short’s didn’t exist. So the wedding planner barely had lines. And then in 2022, they just straight up didn’t manage to find a talent that could bring something with the same sort of unique flare that Short brought with him.
I almost wish that this film had actually called up Martin Short to be the wedding planner. Comedy is the only thing this film is missing. Intentional comedy. Not just a line or two that makes you smile, or even a little chuckle, but something that actually lifts the mood. By adding the divorce track, and leaning heavily on Garcia, a lovely and brilliant actor known for many things but not necessarily his comic timing, humor was what this film neeed just a dash more of.
The Blind Perspective: Very nice audio description. First time I’ve seen four credited narrators, and a project bothering to name the individuals who come in to read the dubbed dialogue. Sadly, I don’t think this film has Spanish Audio Description, though it probably should. There’s a decent amount of dialogue in Spanish, and having the film (which obviously caters to a Latinx population) offer a Spanish Audio Description track as well would have made a ton of sense.
Final Thoughts: I’m quite impressed by how much this film swung for the fences, taking the franchise name, but doing something completely different. And a big kudos for not just remaking the same damn thing, but swapping in a new race. Actually catering this movie to not just a rich Latin culture, but also adapting it for a modern 2022, makes for a very unique experience, and one worth taking. I just wish it was a bit more intentionally funny.
Final Grade: B+