The centerpiece of “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” is a sweetly engaging story about the improbable autumnal romance between an impossibly demanding celebrity caterer, played by a perfectly cast Jeremy Irons, and the age-appropriate, sight-impaired free spirit (a very winning Diane Keaton) who manages to locate a warm heart beneath his frosty demeanor. Unfortunately — indeed, tragically — this appealing narrative is paid only sporadic attention during the run of writer-director Dennis Dugan’s haphazard amalgamation of loosely interconnected storylines that, save for the scenes involving Keaton and Irons, run the gamut from blandly predictable to overbearingly unfunny.
To put it another way: If “Love, Actually” had actually been as bad as its most vociferous detractors have long insisted, it would have looked and sounded a lot like this misfire.
Most of the events are driven in various ways by the upcoming wedding of a Boston mayoral candidate (Dennis Staroselsky) who frets about his staid public image and his appreciably less uptight fiancée (Caroline Portu). But those characters fade into background — to the point of their serving as little more than distractions — while Dugan bounces back and forth among subplots that focus on, among others, a bar band rocker (Diego Boneta) who reluctantly accepts a gig to perform at the aforementioned wedding; the mayor’s ne’er-do-well brother (Andy Goldenberg), who’s literally chained to a Russian mob-connected stripper (Melinda Hill) while participating in a competitive reality TV show to pay off his gambling debts; a Duck Boat tour guide (Andrew Bachelor) who falls for an elusive beauty, and becomes a minor media celebrity while pursuing her; and a novice wedding planner (Maggie Grace) who, during the movie’s portentously obnoxious opening minutes, earns the sobriquet of “Wedding Trasher” when she accidentally parachutes into an outdoor wedding during a very public breakup with her boyfriend.
Amid this dreary sound and fury, welcome grace notes are provided by Irons as Lawrence, an autocratic widower, and Keaton as Sara, a genial lady set up as his “blind date” (even here, alas, writer-director Dugan’s touch is conspicuously heavy). Whether their characters are drolly bandying during an awkward first meeting (“Are you handsome?” “No, I’m ancient!”) or simply enjoying each other other’s company as they gradually fall in love, these smooth-moving, Oscar-winning pros come across as such a perfect fit that you cannot help wondering why no one has ever thought to cast them as a couple before.
And credit Keaton for her terrific delivery of what, to damn with faint praise, is the movie’s funniest line. When Sara discovers what Lawrence has left behind the morning after their first close encounters, she sighs: “A note! I’ve fallen in love with the dumbest man in history!”
You read a lot these days about how this or that movie is “perfect for streaming.” (And yes, I freely admit, I have used that phrase quite a bit myself lately.) But “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” really and truly does fit that description, if only because it should be viewed only under circumstances that allow you to fast-forward during stretches that are either painfully unamusing (including the moments showcasing Dugan himself as an overbearing game-show host) or tediously flat. And keep in mind: You’re reading a review by someone who admits (albeit not in polite company) to liking the much-maligned “Problem Child,” Dugan’s 1990 directorial debut, and recalls chuckling at various points during his collaborations with Adam Sandler (“Big Daddy,” “Grown Ups,” etc.) This time out, however, Dugan tries too hard and, worse, encourages many of his actors to do the same. The effort shows.