Home Reviews Movie Brooke Shields Says I Do to Netflix’s Inoffensive Rom-Com

Brooke Shields Says I Do to Netflix’s Inoffensive Rom-Com

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Brooke Shields Says I Do to Netflix’s Inoffensive Rom-Com

After “Ticket to Paradise” and “Destination Wedding” showed us the different ways in which calamity ensues when planning weddings abroad, Netflix releases “Mother of the Bride,” which combines the essential elements of both those recent romantic comedies into one passable package. The far-off setting emphasizes the lavish and luxe, though the narrative is cheaply woven and fairly threadbare. While “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters’ latest fails to add anything unique to the conversation, it does scrounge up a modest amount of heart when it comes to its saccharine sweet message of never giving up on happily ever after.

Mere seconds after her extravagant proposal, Emma (Miranda Cosgrove) begins fretting to her fiancé RJ (Sean Teale) about how to frame their engagement to her judgmental widowed mom Dr. Lana Winslow (Brooke Shields), who doesn’t even know her only child has a steady beau. Cue zany, plucky score. Mom’s been busy saving the world, locking down grants and researching genetic diseases in San Francisco, but plans to make up for lost time once Emma returns home from graduating university in London. Lana is in for a few surprises. Not only does her daughter have a future husband, she also has a new career as a professional social media influencer. And Emma’s first gig as a brand ambassador for a luxury resort in Thailand is her own destination wedding.

Battling against parental obsolescence and without much say in the marriage matter, Lana hops a plane to Phuket to meet Emma’s mystery man and reunite with her mischievous sister Janice (Rachael Harris). However, hijinks quickly arise upon the arrival of guests like Lana’s married college chums Clay (Michael McDonald) and Scott (Wilson Cruz), as well as wealthy, handsome Will (Benjamin Bratt), the love of Lana’s life who unexpectedly abandoned her 30 years prior. Will is RJ’s single father and, of course, still harbors feelings for Lana. Beset by insecurities, the pair engage in playful competitions for the kids’ affections, jockeying for power positions in their packed schedules and lavishing them with expensive gifts. Timing is everything, and these two must learn to forgive their past selves in order to have the best present of all.

There’s a certain paint-by-numbers quality that the film never shakes. Though there are fleeting moments of clever creativity that add interest, specifically the orchestrated situations dealing with heartthrob doctor Lucas (Chad Michael Murray), its predictable, calculated scenarios lead to a plateau of energy from the get-go. We know what will happen and exactly when it will happen. Worse, the material’s maddeningly muted conflicts and crises (such as the adults’ skinny dipping adventure and Emma’s burgeoning annoyance with RJ’s fist-bumping, high-fiving affectations) can’t even manage to sustain themselves through the brisk run time. They wrap up early — so much so there’s a choreographed dance sequence added into the end credits to further pad the proceedings.

Interpersonal relationships between the couples don’t hold a modicum of complexity, providing varying degrees of dampened, rushed resolutions. The audience rarely feels the pull of their emotions or the weight of their decisions. The inclusion of a gay couple is welcomed, though the filmmakers don’t do much with that couple, utilizing Clay and Scott primarily to aid Lana’s arc rather than giving them any internality.

Waters falters in exhibiting the nimble visual dexterity of previous projects. There’s no feeling connoted through aesthetic stylization, as when Regina George’s betrayal dawns on Cady in “Mean Girls” or the curse transference between mother and daughter in “Freaky Friday.” There are few grand movie moments to match the heart-swells in “Just Like Heaven” or the red dress reveal in “He’s All That.” The closest we ever get to something of tangible value are a sunset slow dance between the former lovers and copious drone shots of the sprawling resort property in travelogue-style transitional sequences. Perhaps the peppy, occasionally swoony soundtrack married to the perfectly lit imagery is supposed to inspire our connection to the material, but it doesn’t.

Even so, there are a handful of highlights within its algorithm-aided box-checking. Emma is empathetic to her mother’s extenuating circumstances, which is refreshing to see reflected in Robin Bernheim Burger’s writing and Cosgrove’s nuanced, thoughtful performance. Janice’s horny double-entendres (which Harris blessedly delivers with campy aplomb) are hilarious, especially since she’s never even shown kissing someone she’s hitting on, let alone getting her groove on with them. Shields and Bratt have a chemistry that sparks in their stolen looks and vulnerable intimacies, despite an overall lack of burning desire and heat conducted by their connection. It’s fun to see them stretching their muscles by incorporating genre-mandated physical comedy (via recurring clumsy pratfalls) as it helps to endear this cute couple to us.

Still, with its stale sentiments on social media’s toxic culture of likes and superficial depth exploring second chances at true love, the film’s more palatable qualities are needlessly subdued. In fact, it goes out of its way to not offend anyone with delicate sensibilities, whether it be over-explaining motivations or providing forgettable, reductive scenarios. And while a gentle, light-hearted romp is indeed welcomed in these taxing times, there’s much left to be desired from our journey with these likable but under-developed characters.

“Mother of the Bride” is now streaming on Netflix.

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