Following soon after his newlywed-centric laffer “All in Good Time,” Brit director Nigel Cole continues his romantic-comedy investigation into matrimony with the scrappy but likable “The Wedding Video.” An account of the fraught build-up to the big day for a couple as seen through the camera of the groom’s best man, “Video” reps sharper work than “Good Time,” but it’s unlikely to match the B.O. dowries earned by previous Cole efforts, like “Calendar Girls” or “Made in Dagenham.” Impressive femme perfs and an accessible concept will tie the knot with auds in modest numbers domestically after the pic’s Aug. 17 release.
Footloose world traveler Raif Moyle (standup comedian Rufus Hound) returns to his hometown of Chester in Blighty to serve as best man at the wedding of his uptight, gainfully employed brother Tim (Robert Webb). Raif is amused to learn that Tim’s betrothed is Saskia (serial scene-stealer Lucy Punch), once the wildest party girl at her and Raif’s high school. She’s become respectable since her nouveau-riche mother, Alex (Harriet Walter), married a local millionaire who’s bankrolling Saskia and Tim’s lavish wedding.
Over the six weeks leading up to the nuptials, Raif intrusively films the preparations, providing a first-person mockumentary framework that doesn’t quite convince, due to the increasing professionalism of its execution. It’s also confusingly undercut when work by other film crews is spliced into the story to provide alternative viewpoints. Then again, given the pic’s outrageously implausible climax, realism doesn’t figure high on the agenda here.
The pic is better at generating well-tuned comedy of class and social mores, especially via the scenes featuring Saskia and her status-obsessed mother, who is determined to make this the Chester Wedding of the Year at any cost. A delicious comedienne who also movingly pulls off an unlikely about-face for her character in the last act, Walter reps the pic’s secret weapon, particularly in scenes where Alex fusses neurotically over trivial details, like whether butterflies or doves should be released symbolically at a key matrimonial moment. Punch, clearly pleased as her surname to score a leading role for a change, holds up her end well by making the initially prissy Saskia endearing, and plays a great drunk. Character thesp Miriam Margolyes shows off stiletto-sharp timing with some of pic’s bitchiest lines as Saskia’s snobby grandmother Patricia.
The men are rather less enjoyable company. Webb’s trademark haughty, acerbic schtick, familiar from TV programs like “Peep Show,” is a bit of a bore, although he scores a few laughs clowning it up in a dancing montage. Similarly limited, Hound isn’t much more empathic as the boorish, maladroit Raif, and auds may start to wonder what a woman like Saskia sees in either one. Indeed, she starts to have doubts about marrying Tim as she gets to know Raif better.
Although the script by Tim Firth (“Calendar Girls,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic”) takes great pains to wrap up the loose plot ends in a big fat wedding bow, the whole thing plays best as a scrappy series of vignettes built around observational humor. This is especially the case when colorful secondary characters are thrown into the spotlight, such as Michelle Gomez’s quietly demented flight attendant-turned-wedding planner, or Angus Barnett’s jocular minister with thesping ambitions.
Pic feels smallscreen in its sketch-show rhythms and comic register. Nothing will be lost in the transfer to ancillary platforms like DVD and in-flight entertainment, which in fact will probably prove kinder settings for the tech credits’ low-budget look.