Plot: A father comes to terms with his daughter’s upcoming wedding through the prism of multiple relationships within a large, sprawling Cuban-American clan.
Review: father of the bride is a property that has been a triumphant crowd-pleaser for over seventy years. Based on the best-selling 1949 novel, the original version starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor in a traditional comedy that received multiple Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. The 1991 remake starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Diane Keaton became a pop culture hit, spawning a sequel and a reunion short with a pandemic setting. Written by Nancy Myers, this remake was a little crazier than the original but kept the core story of a father struggling to let his little girl grow up with her own life. The story is updated again with a mostly Hispanic cast led by Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. With a few twists on the familiar formula, the new one father of the bride is just as heartwarming as the previous versions and serves as a timely update
In this new version, the titular is Billy Herrera (Andy Garcia), an architect who never shys from telling his story of how he came to America from Cuba and grew from nothing into one of Miami’s most renowned architects. Married to Ingrid (Gloria Estefan), Billy is the father of Sofia (Adria Arjona), a New York-based lawyer, and Cora (Isabel Merced), a struggling fashion designer who lingers in her sister’s shadow. Right at the start, we learn that Billy and Ingrid’s relationship is ailing and the couple is preparing for divorce when Sofia announces her engagement to Adan Castillo (Diego Boneta). With his personal life falling apart and his beloved daughter on the verge of disappearing under his wing, Billy struggles to reconcile his past with his future.
This update shifts the ethnicity of the main characters but retains the elements that made the 1991 film such a hit, namely the slightly wacky wedding planner. Martin Short’s flamboyant character is replaced by SNL escapee Chloe Fineman as Natalie Vance. Vance is an influencer and the embodiment of the stereotypical millennial who rubs Billy’s more traditional values the wrong way. Billy also fights with his future son-in-law Adan. Adan, a Mexican, is the man Billy considers his daughter. The generational and cultural divide widens when Billy learns that Adan’s father, Hernan (Pedro Damian), is one of the richest men in Mexico. While Ingrid is far more accepting of Sofia and Adan’s wishes, Billy continues to rigidly push against his entire family, who seem to be leaving him behind.
As the film progresses this will father of the bride makes no great attempt to hide the fact that it’s a remake of a well-known story. But with the divorce element and more focus on the in-laws’ clash, this film makes better use of the character-driven humor than the slapstick that Steve Martin and Martin Short were so adept at. In many ways, this film benefits from starring Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. Both actors have more experience in dramatic roles and play these characters with a serious realism that makes them far more relatable to the casual viewer. Even when Garcia plays Billy so stubborn and difficult that he won’t accept his daughter getting married, he never comes across as mean, just a heartbroken man dealing with emotions he’s not used to expressing.
Written by Matt Lopez and directed by Gaz Alazraki, father of the bride plays with many divisions between characters, including romantic (Billy and Ingrid), cultural (Cuban and Mexican), religious (Catholic and Athian), intergenerational (baby boomers and millennials), and many more. Latin American culture elements from dance to music and more feature prominently in the story, but this never feels like a stereotypical cash grab to be diverse just to be diverse. The story feels authentic and has a reason to be told, even if it never really does anything really different than the versions that came before it. Although the 2022 film isn’t as whimsical as the 1991 film father of the bride just feels numb to the fact that these characters are all filthy rich, so it feels a bit bad for them to complain about anything in a time of recession and global economic challenges. Despite this, it retains an air of fairy tale fun that makes it enjoyable to watch.
The new father of the bride is a great example of the types of movies that work well on streaming platforms and don’t need a cinema window. In 1991, this was the kind of film that would do well on the big screen and can’t compete with big-budget extravaganzas today. But movies like this deserve to be seen. Rather than feeling like it’s trying too hard to be culturally sensitive (an element that’s key to Chloe Fineman’s hilarious performance), this father of the bride is a testament to how inclusive and authentic a film can be when made by writers, filmmakers and actors who are representative of what we see on screen. father of the bride surprised me by being a really nice film with a welcome return for Andy Garcia, who does some of his best work in a long time. If you want a light, funny, and entertaining retro throwback comedy, you can’t do better than walk this movie down the aisle.