Synopsis – A father’s coming to grips with his daughter’s upcoming wedding through the prism of multiple relationships within a big, sprawling Cuban-American clan.
My Take – Often considered as one of best 90s family comedies, Father of the Bride (1991) and its sequel, Father of the Bride Part II (1995), remain sketched in audiences’ mind particularly due to winning performances from Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Martin Short.
A remake itself of a 1950 film of the same name which was adapted from a 1949 novel by Edward Streeter.
And hence keeping on with the trend of remaking anything and everything all in order to cash in on nostalgia, this third filmed version of the story headed straight to HBO Max last week. But while this latest iteration uses the same title and follows the same template, thankfully, it bears little resemblance to previous films other than the fact the central family has a daughter who is getting married.
As director Gaz Alazraki and writer Matt Lopez update the story by relocating the focus on to a Cuban-American family who reside in Miami, resulting in the film that acts both as a pleasantly enjoyable throwback and something entirely unique.
Sure, though it does not possess the same amount of charm of the last remake and hits too many familiar beats with its story, it still manages to win over with its immense heart, amusing banter, infectious soundtrack, wonderful performances and celebration of marriages, families, and second chances. Making this one a fine example of how the romantic comedy genre deserves a much-needed comeback.
The story follows Billy Herrera (Andy Garcia), a renowned Miami-based Cuban-American architect, who despite finding immense success in a typical rags to riches narrative, is now going struggling with his marriage and going to therapy with his wife Ingrid (Gloria Estefan), who is now seeking divorce from him. A decision she doesn’t intend on changing and insists on announcing to their family during the evening gathering.
However, their plan goes for a toss, when their eldest daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona), a recent law school graduate, returns home to announce that she’s engaged to Adan (Diego Boneto) and is moving to Mexico with him. In the face of such happy news, both Billy and Ingrid decide to put on a brave face for the family and tell them the news after the wedding.
But things begin to get only worse for Billy as Sofia openly clashes with him on all fronts on his desire to shape the wedding with his own traditions. Things only further complicate with the arrival of Adan’s father Hernan Castillo (Pedro Damián), a multi-millionaire, who along with his family from Mexico, threatens to outshine him in every way possible.
While the set up is familiar, the re-imagining does well by placing the classic story within a world viewed through a lens of immigrants and their first-generation offspring. The film script relies on a specificity that gives the film its own, distinctive character, touching on inter-conflicts within the community, and basing the father’s actions on what he’s experienced as a Cuban exile in the US, which gives an added texture to how he handles ideas of money and tradition.
But rather than falling into regressive tropes, writer Lopez’s surprisingly deft script shows that it’s the elder who needs to grow and learn and that the younger man’s progressiveness is something that can help him out of the rut he’s stuck in. Resulting in what is one of the most vulnerable moments in the films, the father of the bride and the groom sharing a heart-to-heart that leads to the kind of understanding I felt wasn’t as prominent in the original.
But ultimately, like its predecessor, the film is about the bride’s father learning to right his wrongs and grow for the better. Billy does this remarkably not only with Sofia and Adan’s future but with younger daughter, Cora (Isabela Merced) as well, learning to trust in her abilities as a designer while actively rooting for her to succeed.
And, of course, learning to meet his wife’s needs by looking to his son-in-law as a shining example of the kind of husband he should’ve been. The film also attempts to subvert certain gender norms, like the father giving his daughter away, or the fiancé needing to ask for permission to marry the daughter.
Though the film has flaws, for instance, it is about 20 minutes too long, but the pleasure of watching such kind of film is a reminder of how we don’t see such kind of high-gloss studio picture a lot any more. Simply told, if a sequel would be green lit, I wouldn’t complain.
The cast is without a doubt the best part of the film. Andy Garcia nails it as the arrogant but lovable father role perfectly. Being a reliable performer for decades, Garcia brings his expected depth to meaningful scenes and still oozes charm, but most importantly nails the comedic bits too. Gloria Estefan is perfect foil to Garcia, and brings in a heartfelt turn, particularly delivering strongly in the emotional scenes.
Adria Arjona and Diego Boneta are believable as the young couple in love and on the verge of marriage, while Isabela Merced as usual was excellent, carving her own piece in the story perfectly. In other roles, Chloe Fineman, Pedro Damián, Laura Harring, Enrique Murciano, Casey Thomas Brown, Macarena Achaga, Ana Fabrega and Marta Velasco bring in the required laughs and drama. On the whole, ‘Father of the Bride’ is a highly watchable comedy remake that offers an enjoyable spin on a familiar story.
Directed – Gary Alazraki
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 117 minutes