Providing the darkest of humor, more guns than a Peckinpah movie and a full-frontal assault on Teutonic machismo, Dominique Deruddere's black-hearted comedy "The Wedding Party" ends up a bit broad for the arthouse and a bit arty for the mainstream. But it could find a cult-ish niche thanks to a storyline that's totally off-center.

Providing the darkest of humor, more guns than a Peckinpah movie and a full-frontal assault on Teutonic machismo, Dominique Deruddere’s black-hearted comedy “The Wedding Party” ends up a bit broad for the arthouse and a bit arty for the mainstream. But it could find a cult-ish niche thanks to a storyline that’s totally off-center.

Based on the German comicbook by Hermann and Van Hamme, “The Wedding Party” starts out with the world’s most dismal nuptials and goes directly downhill. The happy couple — Mark and Sophie (Arne Lenk and Lisa Maria Potthoff) — actually are happy. But all around them is discord, radiating off Mark’s father Hermann (a terrific Armin Rohde), a bullying despot who tries, and usually manages, to control everyone around him. The notable exception is Franz Berger (Uwe Ochsenknecht), the owner and chef of the restaurant where the reception being held, who doesn’t want to sell his place to Hermann. When the harried kitchen serves up shrimp cocktails that smell like low tide, Hermann has his excuse to start a small-arms war.

Hostages are taken — literally — gunfire erupts, and the confrontation becomes a contest of wills between Franz, who wants his money, and Hermann, who wants the wife and daughter-in-law Franz has locked in the bathroom. A close-up of a rust-eaten Nazi helmet is the one solid clue that Deruddere wants to spank the German national character.

Romantic subplots hatch all around — including between the new busboy Arne (Marlon Kittel) and Isabel (Marie-Luise Schramm), who seem to be the only sane people in the neighborhood. Deruddere does let things dwell in the dark a rather long time, and the level of violence takes some surprisingly sharp turns.

Mark’s ongoing conflict with his father, with whom everyone has a conflict, is resolved in a predictably sentimental fashion. In the end, though, “The Wedding Party,” while no party, is definitely worth attending.

The Wedding Party

Germany

Production

A Beta Cinema production of a Typhoon Films/Fanes Film/MMG presentation in association with Medienfonds GFP, Erfttal Film and Diana Film. Produced by Marc Conrad, Norbert Preuss, Hilde de Laere, Erwin Provoost. Co-producers, David Groenewold, Klaus Dohle. Directed by Dominique Deruddere. Screenplay, Deruddere, Jean van Hamme, based on the comicbook "Lune de Guerre" by Hermann and Van Hamme.

Crew

Camera (color, 35mm), Danny Elsen; editor, Philippe Ravoet; music, Klaus Badelt, Wolfram de Marco; production designer, Hubert Pouille; costume designer, Lorette Meus; sound (Dolby), Frank Heidbrink, Wolfgang Wirtz; special effects, CA Scanline Production; casting, An Dorthe Braker. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, Nov . 7, 2005. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Hermann Walzer - Armin Rohde Franz Berger - Uwe Ochsenknecht Mark Walzer - Arne Lenk Sophie Halberstadt - Lisa Maria Potthoff Fabian Hinrichs - Alexander Halberstadt Katrin Walzer - Sandra Borgmann Andy Walzer - Josef Heynert

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