Wedding Crashers is not a ground-breaking film. Most of the characters are unapologetically one-dimensional, the romantic dilemmas are predictable and most of the jokes were done better in American Pie, six years before. Where the film does succeed, however, is in the likability of its leads, played sincerely and with enthusiasm by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, and in a hilarious five-minute cameo from an uncredited Will Ferrell that I could quote word-for-word long before I had ever seen the rest of the film.
As the film nears its conclusion, in typical darkest-before-the-dawn fashion, things are not going well for our hero, John Beckwith (Wilson). Estranged from both his best girl-chasing buddy and his love interest, a lonely and depressed John spends his days crashing weddings alone, complete with detailed and entirely fictitious backstories, in order to meet one night stands. Dismayed that his partner in crashing, Jeremy (Vaughn), has abandoned him to get married, John seeks reassurance in his unfulfilling lifestyle by meeting the father of Wedding Crashing, Chazz Reinhold.
As expected from a character described throughout the film in hushed and awed tones by his disciple Jeremy, Chazz is a gleeful master womaniser and John is initially delighted to hear him dismiss the idea of love or marriage. Very quickly, however, Chazz reveals himself to be a lazy, amoral manchild who lives with his elderly mother and describes grief as ‘Nature’s most powerful aphrodisiac’ while planning to ride his bicycle to funerals to seduce the mourners. He represents the reality of the Wedding Crashers’ self-absorbed lifestyles and exposes it as meaningless and shallow, adding some welcome balance to a film full of back-slapping bro-dom and eye-rolling female stereotypes. Disgusted, John rejects Chazz and his teachings, learns the value of true love and resolves to be a better man. All that’s then left of the film is an obligatory heartfelt confession and happy endings all round.
The laughs come from Ferrell’s dead-on portrayal of a man who is half typical male fantasy and half total loser, whose self-confidence and nunchuck-wielding aggression clash hilariously with his reliance on his mother and his childish mannerisms. He jumps from topic to topic like a Labrador puppy with ADHD, never allowing the audience time to take in the scope of his bizarreness or predict what tangent he will race down next. After scene after scene of love-induced guilt and shame, Ferrell’s tidal waves of expletives and misogyny hits the audience like a slap in the face, shocking them back into a film that had slowed to a crawl.
Ferrell’s charismatic bombast makes Chazz’s outbursts endlessly quotable, giving out-of-context lines like ‘Dude died in a hang-gliding accident. What an IDIOT!’ and ‘Hey, Mom! The Meatloaf! We want it now!’ the ability to instantly set me chuckling any time of the day. During his cameo Ferrell is clearly having a fantastic time playing such an over-the-top role and his enthusiasm serves to energise the character even more, whether screaming at his elderly mother or passionately embracing his one-night lover a few seconds later. Wilson, to his credit, is an excellent straight man to Ferrell and skilfully plays impressed, disturbed and totally overwhelmed all at once, mirroring the reactions of the audience. The scene is all Ferrell’s though and he fills it from his first silhouetted appearance to his last cartoonish wink. This is him at his best; loud and brash, he explodes into the film just in time to save John’s soul and set up the final resolution, all by being as hilariously awful as possible.
Ferrell’s performance in Wedding Crashers is not only by far the best acted and most memorable scene in the film but in less than five minutes creates one of the funniest cinematic scumbags I’ve ever seen. Love him and hate him, Will Ferrell’s Chazz is most definitely just living the dream, even if it’s one that anyone else would be relieved to wake up from. Watch the scene below: