How do you possibly make a movie out of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding"?
Theater buffs already know that you probably can't. "Wedding" is noted as a pioneer in interactive theater, a play where the audience is part of the action. The long-running off-Broadway favorite invites ticket buyers to act as "wedding guests," mingling among the cast, who, playing family and friends of the title couple, are required to improvise conversations and reactions. Storylines overlap amidst all the chaos, resulting in a play that's different every time you go.
Adapting all of this into a single, linear film requires a massive restructuring, which winds up diluting the energy of the live experience. Worse, the camera forces a greater focus on the shrill, obnoxious aspects of these characters, whose over-the-top stereotyped mannerisms wear too thin too quickly.
It's Long Island, 1988, and Tony (Joey McIntyre) and Tina (Mila Kunis) are prepping for their big day. The film opens with first-person shots from both characters, who must deal with dopey friends and busybody relatives, before shifting to a third-person view, provided by the flamboyant filmmaker hired to document the wedding and reception. It's a good idea, placing us in the middle of the action in a way that copies the theatrical experience while adding a cinematic kicker - so why bother with that first-person stuff beforehand? How does that we-are-Tony/Tina stuff mesh with the video keepsake structure of the rest of the picture? It's a weird, ungainly shift that never works, especially when you figure in the clever introduction featuring faux 80s-era pre-show in-theater ads and a title slate that effectively apes cheesy professional videographer flourishes. The movie never figures out where the first-person stuff fits, yet it throws it in anyway.
The anarchy of the wedding ceremony - marked by loud guests, overemotional family members, and an incontinent uncle who picks the wrong time for a bathroom break - is taken just a hair too far, going beyond comically frenzied, landing in an uncomfortable jumble of giggles and jitters that sets the wrong tone by being too off-putting too quickly.
As we move to the reception, it becomes clear that we don't like any of these characters, especially the shrewish Tina (who complains loudly about anything and everything) and vapid Tony (whose only real character trait is that he has none). We're not amused by their ethnic cartoonishness, which turns out to be a one-joke affair, what with the thick Long Island accents and big hair. Nor do we become concerned about them as actual people, so when any conflict arises (namely in the form of Adrian Grenier, who shows up as Tina's ex-flame, although really, the whole movie is a series of loud conflicts and louder crises), we can't bring ourselves to care.
We can't bring ourselves to laugh, either. Most of the humor is meant to come from mockery of the characters' bad taste and bad decisions. But director/screenwriter Roger Paradiso has nothing clever to say about these characters or their situations. He simply shows people being stupid, then asks us to laugh. Instead, we only want to tune out when Tina screams at the caterer for the bad meal, or when the pregnant bride's maid defends her smoking and drinking, or when the drunk ex-flame sits on the wedding cake. Paradiso mistakes noise for comedy and bossy attitudes for satire, and in doing so, he delivers a reception that any sane person would leave within a few minutes.
Sure, many films have earned big laughs from controlled chaos. But Paradiso forgets the control. He lets his characters run too loose for too long (even fans of the play will grow tired of the movie's rambling 110-minute running time) and forgets that what works well in theater comes across as too much on camera. By the time the boozed-up uncle takes a leak in the holy water, you know it's time for an annulment.
"Tony N' Tina's Wedding" debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2004, then sat on hold for three long years until IFC finally nabbed it, giving it a one-screen theatrical run in late 2007 before dumping it into rerun rotation on cable. That one-screen run, by the way, was part of a gimmicky evening that promised free weddings to audience members. Sounds cute, until you realize your reception consists of watching a terrible movie about a bad wedding.
After all that, the movie finally arrives on DVD courtesy Emerging Pictures. (Curiously, IFC opted not to handle video distribution.) In a mind-boggling move meant to hype the presence of Grenier, the DVD cover features the "Entourage" star's head none-too-subtly Photoshopped onto the body of the black priest. Seriously.
Video & Audio
There's a too-long scene early in the film where the flamboyant filmmaker character goes out of his way to say he's classy enough to always shoot on 16mm film instead of video, which is a lame way of explaining why the movie wasn't shot on an 80s-era camcorder like any wedding video would be. This bit of scripted clumsiness also helps explain why the movie only looks so-so, with a 16mm look that emphasizes the movie's low budget. The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer is soft, black levels are muddy, and while the garish color scheme looks quite nice in indoor shots, outdoor footage is a pinch too washed out.
The soundtrack is offered in 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, both adequate in balancing all the nonstop dialogue with the nonstop music. No subtitles are provided.
"Behind the Scenes" (2:16; 1.33:1 full frame) isn't a featurette but a collection of on-set home video footage taken during rehearsals.
"Wedding Album" (2:38; 1.78:1 anamorphic) and "Production Gallery" (1:47; 1.78:1 anamorphic) are two photo slideshows; the first is a collection of production photos of the cast in character, the second gathers behind-the-scenes shots. A loop of horrific conga line music runs over both slideshows. The same music loops under the main menu, too, so there's no escape.
A spoiler-heavy trailer (1:49; 1.85:1 flat letterbox) gives away everything, including the last scene of the movie. Whoops.
A PDF file, accessible via your DVD-ROM drive, offers cheesy wedding vows as penned by "Reverend Debra," the same Debra who officiated the weddings at the IFC screening. The file also includes a link to Debra's "Rent a Reverend" website.
I can understand if fans of the play want to track this down to see why it sat on the shelf for so long. But those same fans would be much better off pretending the movie never happened in the first place. Skip It.