She's got a purse full of everything from bobby pins to bottled water. She's got a high-power wardrobe, lofty career goals and the discipline of a drill sergeant. And she's always got everything under control. Mary Fiore is a successful Bay-area wedding planner who has taken her firm from a struggling start-up to a high-dollar enterprise. Now she's got her eye on the wedding of Fran Donolly, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur whose daddy will spare no expense to ensure that her wedding is a day to remember. If Mary wins the account, she'll earn a partnership in her company. Nothing can stop her, except ... love.
Hot on the trail of her new account, Mary stumbles—quite literally—upon her knight in shining armor. But his armor quickly tarnishes when she finds out he is none other than Dr. Steve Edison: Fran's fiancé. Mary's thrown for a loop—should she follow her heart or her career plans? To make matters worse, her good-hearted father has arranged a marriage for her with a young Italian man she's known since childhood. What’s a self-admitted control freak to do?
positive elements: This is a sweet film with plenty to be happy about. Though Mary's father isn't the brightest guy ("Your mother thought I had bushy eyebrows and a low IQ"), he truly loves his daughter and wants the best for her. His intention in setting her up is to usher her into the kind of commitment that he enjoyed with his late wife—a marriage that grew from appreciation to respect, from like to love. In the same vein, Massimo (Mary’s "betrothed") may be a walking malapropism, but he understands much about the importance of caring, commitment and friendship in marriage.
In an age when the merging of career and family is a weighty question, this film reminds young viewers (especially girls) that pursuing career success at any cost isn’t always the wisest, or the most honest choice. Also in contrast to the lucre and prestige of the career world is the richness that Mary enjoys because of her relationship with her father’s friends. They’re not from her generation, they’re not wealthy, and they’re not ambitious, but they care for her and she cares for them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fran’s parents are seen as foolish because they place their trust and delight in their newly acquired wealth.
When Mary learns that her handsome prince is already promised to another, she is willing to set her desires aside and continue to plan Steve’s wedding to Fran. Granted, her unselfishness is motivated more by her professionalism than a desire to do the right thing. Still, she makes the difficult choice to resist Steve’s advances until she’s certain they’re free to be together. And she’s willing to lose him forever rather than have him in a way that’s not completely honest.
Though the idea is not thoroughly developed, this movie also makes mention of the importance of knowing what you want in a spouse before you marry. It could be a great opportunity for a discussion with teen viewers about standards for their future spouses.
spiritual content: Little. Some of the weddings featured are church weddings. The most extensive look at the clergy is of an elderly priest who, comically, feels the call of nature just before a wedding ceremony.
nudity and sexual content: In an embarrassing scene played for laughs, Steve knocks over a life-size stone statue, breaking off a certain part of the male figure's anatomy. The gag lingers, and a failed repair attempt ends with Mary using super glue remover to detach the offending piece of stone from Steve’s palm.
Happily, that’s about the worst of it. Mary and Steve’s enchantment with each other never turns sexual. Still, no one even implies that abstinence is a moral standard that ought to be upheld. In fact, in pondering her doubts about her wedding, Fran wonders, "Is [Steve] going to be the last man I sleep with, ever?" Apparently he isn't the first. A bizarre series of events culminate in Steve lying on top of Mary in the middle of a street. He stays there for an uncomfortably long time. A few references (using mostly the proper terminology) to both male and female sexual organs are sprinkled throughout the film. A one-liner from Steve exploits gay stereotypes.
violent content: No intentional violence, but a few intense scenes, including Mary and Steve’s initial meeting, when he knocks her to the ground to save her from a runaway dumpster. A runaway horse also provides a few moments of adrenaline. When Steve and Massimo share some "male bonding" time, their wrestling match turns aggressive.
crude or profane language: Perhaps a dozen mild profanities, usually used in intense emotional situations. These are not emphasized, so they make Penny's single use of the f-word especially unnecessary and disappointing. God's name is also misused several times.
drug and alcohol content: Mary has wine with her dinner, and wine is served at many of the weddings. Mrs. Donolly constantly has a bottle in tow, an accessory that is played for laughs. Apparently, expensive wine is a "new money" luxury she hasn't learned to carry off with poise. Finally, crushed at the sight of an old fiancé who jilted her, Mary gets stupid drunk and then comes home with a mostly full six pack of beer. Dr. Steve's Rx for her hangover includes "Two aspirin, a lot of water, sleep, and a beer in the morning."
other negative elements: Dialogue indicates that, as an undergrad at UC Berkeley, Fran masterminded an underground gambling ring.
conclusion: Though The Wedding Planner ultimately upholds the modern proverb, "The best time for a divorce is before the wedding," it takes one potentially dangerous rabbit trail: Mary may not realize that she’s falling for an engaged man when they first meet, but Steve knows he’s playing with fire. He later says, "That night in the park I was attracted to you. I admit it. Maybe I was just being a guy and the opportunity presented itself. The bottom line is, nothing happened." Technically, he may be right, but if teens think that picking up on any opportunity that presents itself is just part of being a guy, they’re not building the self-discipline needed for commitment in marriage.
Nonetheless, in a throwback to her days as Selena, Lopez is innocent and convincing (too bad that image didn’t carry over to her recent album release or Rolling Stone appearance). McConaughey is endearing in a hayseed-meets-Hollywood sort of way. Lots of unexpected—even a few too random—situations provide hilarious comic relief. And they all live happily ever after. On top of that, the heart and head matters touched upon present all kinds of opportunities to engage teen viewers in meaningful discussions. Parents will simply have to decide if the smattering of foul language, alcohol abuse and sexual references prevent this film from being a good plan for their families.