As holiday confections go, this breezy sequel proves pleasant enough, assuming a reasonably high tolerance for saccharine in one’s diet. Mixing broad comedy with fuzzy life lessons, pic offers enough wholesome family appeal to make Bob Dole smile and, as a break from crowded malls, should rival its forebear in terms of box office stocking stuffing.
Bearing little resemblance to “Father’s Little Dividend,” the whimsical sequel to the original “Father of the Bride” that starred Spencer Tracy, this latest entry more closely follows the message of the recent Hugh Grant movie “Nine Months”– namely, that having babies (preferably two at a time, the better to serve up those wacky dual-labor scenes) solves all of life’s little problems.
Steve Martin is again properly irascible as George Banks, who, with his daughter (Kimberly Williams) married and son (Kieran Culkin) heading into middle school, begins looking forward to enjoying his carefree years.
George seems to be the only one, in fact, who can’t cope with the idea of his daughter’s becoming pregnant, prompting an amusing midlife crisis sequence leading to an afternoon romp with his wife (Diane Keaton) that — to the shock of everyone — puts her in a family way as well.
Director Charles Shyer and producer Nancy Meyers (who also co-wrote the screenplay) deserve a certain amount of credit for diving so unabashedly into this material, moving back and forth between broad comedy and shamelessly tugging at heartstrings.
The latter works in fits and starts, as the Shyer-Meyers combo tends to overplay small moments such as George playing basketball with his daughter in the driveway — dragging scenes out in slow motion just to make sure the audience gets the point. When Martin’s character asks in exasperation if his brood has become “the Schmaltz family,” one would have to answer with a resounding yes.
As with the first film, there are plenty of comic moments to show off Martin’s considerable skills, though his ongoing narration — often expressing his surprise at what everyone else knows is coming — grows a bit tedious.
While Martin’s tightly wound antics remain the pic’s centerpiece, the filmmakers brighten up the comedy with wacky supporting roles, expanding Martin Short’s presence as the foppish Franck nearly to the point of overdoing a good thing, while introducing fellow Second City alumnus Eugene Levy as the gruff buyer of the Banks’ home. Keaton and Williams are also both easily charming as the women in George’s life.
Tech credits prove solid, with some deftly chosen songs to augment Alan Silvestri’s soporific score and a production design that makes the Banks’ home look like the suburban paradise it’s meant to be — a place where family values and property values go hand in hand.