Society has changed so much since Spencer Tracy first played a dad unprepared to see his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) grow up in 1950’s Father of the Bride. But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We progress, but overprotective fathers and the stress a wedding provides are timeless. Father of the Bride is the latest movie to undergo a millennial makeover, as director Gaz Alazraki infuses the property with much needed diversity and a more evolved perspective on weddings, romance and growing up.
A surprisingly funny Andy Garcia takes over as the father, a role originated by Tracy and taken on by Steve Martin in the 1991 version and its subsequent sequel. The setting moves to Miami, where Cuban immigrant Billy (Garcia) is a successful architect who, as he is fond of reminding his family, came to the United States with nothing. But in his zest for success and financial stability, he’s ignored his wife Ingrid (Gloria Estefan) who, in the opening moments of the movie, tells her husband she wants a divorce.
With a few modern tweaks, the premise of the previous versions remains intact: After graduating from law school and passing the bar in two states, Billy’s daughter Sofia (Adria Arjona) returns home and announces her engagement to fellow lawyer Adan (Diego Boneta). (As an aside, I appreciate that in every version of Father of the Bride, the bride in question gets a little bit older.) Changes abound as it is Sofia who proposed to Adan (something Billy can’t quite wrap his head around) and it’s the couple who wants a no-frills wedding. These seemingly small changes have a big impact. No longer is the bride a young woman who expects her parents to provide her with a lavish wedding. “Not every girl wants to grow up to be a Disney princess,” Sofia tells her dad.
The couple want to get married before they move to Mexico to work for a nonprofit that provides aid to refugees. Billy is horrified at their altruistic career goals. “I wish I didn’t have to make decisions based on money,” he tells them. The juxtaposition of wanting more for your children but also being cognizant of how much easier they may have it will be familiar to many parents.
Chloe Fineman takes over the role as wedding planner Natalie Vance, who endeavors, however incorrectly, to be culturally appropriate. “First of all I don’t know what ‘Latinx’ means,” Billy tells her. The movie has a lot of fun with the concept of a social media influencer who can’t think much beyond her smartphone. When Billy asks for her business card, she replies “Okay boomer, sorry that I don’t have little business cards that pillage and plunder our Mother Earth.” Fineman, so spot-on with her impressions on Saturday Night Live, is clearly having a blast.
In fact, everyone is having so much fun it is easy to forgive the movie’s foibles. For instance, you could make a drinking game out of how often Billy uses the title of the movie in a line of dialogue, just in case we have forgotten while we are all here. “I’m the father of the bride and the father of the bride pays for the wedding,” he says. When he takes a break, other characters fill the void. “You are just the father of the bride,” Ingrid tells him.
Billy struggles to connect with his future son-in-law (he doesn’t even watch sports!) and things get more stressful when Adan’s gregarious and extremely wealthy father Hernan (Pedro Damian) arrives with his ex-wife Marcela (Laura Harring) and new, much younger wife Julieta (Macarena Achaga). When the two families get into a heated argument about the ideal location for the wedding, Ingrid says, “What’s all this Sharks versus Jets shit? We are all Sharks.”
There are also some hinted-at storylines that never materialize. Is there a potential romance blooming between Sofia’s sister Cora (Isabela Merced) and her best friend Vanessa (Ana Fabrega)? Who’s to say? Certainly not the movie, which tiptoes around the idea. Vanessa in particular seems lost on the cutting room floor, especially telling since, at nearly two hours, this movie feels bloated. I say cut one of the film’s many montages and tell us what’s happening between Cora and Vanessa.
The celebration of diverse cultures is evident in the music, the setting and in the way the characters interact. Seeing successful Latino families in a storyline that has been heretofore just been told from a white perspective is important. But none of that would matter if Father of the Bride wasn’t entertaining. Thankfully, it is. Garcia and Estefan in particular are so at ease in their roles that they invite us to be part of the celebration.
Even though you won’t be at all surprised by the multiple happy endings, this is a wedding worth attending.
Director: Gaz Alazraki
Writer: Matt Lopez
Starring: Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan, Adria Arjona, Pedro Damia?n, Chloe Fineman, Isabela Merced, Ana Fabrega , Laura Harring, Macarena Achaga
Release Date: June 16, 2022 (HBO Max)
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).