Mother of the Bride (2024)

Brooke Shields as Lana and Benjamin Bratt as Will in the Netflix original, “Mother of the Bride.”

Avoid saying I do to this unengaging “Bride”

If ever there were grounds for an annulment it’s Netflix’s ignominious “Mother of the Bride.” Not merely incompatible, it’s an irretrievable breakdown in the sanctity of matrimony. And it’s far from no-fault.

From director Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) to writer Robin Bernheim (“The Princess Switch” trilogy) to star Brooke Shields, blame for this most unholiest union is as copious as it is conspicuous. It begins with mental incapacity and ends in impotence, as “Bride” fails to get you up for the umpteenth destination-wedding flick since “Mamma Mia” initiated the trend in 2008.

This one is set in Phuket. And it’s the worst thing to happen to the paradisiacal Thai island since the devastating 2004 tsunami. But it’s even more disastrous for Shields, the Princeton grad whose intellect almost always surpasses her acting talent. Seldom has that been more evident than in “Mother of the Bride,” a ridiculous conceit in which she’s tasked with selling the premise that her Lana, a renowned Bay Area geneticist, is oblivious to the credulity-defying romance her daughter, Emma (Miranda Cosgrove), is having with the son of her old college flame, Will (Benjamin Bratt).

This cluelessness flies in the face of a script that insists on bashing us over the head with how closely involved Lana is with her daughter. Even dumber is the notion that Will has no idea that Emma is Lana’s daughter, despite spending time with the betrothed couple in their adopted home of London. Did Will never once inquire about the parentage of his soon-to-be daughter-in-law?

For the movie’s purposes, no. This conveniently allows him to be as shocked as Lana when they finally come face to face mere days before the wedding. Natch, the long-dormant embers are reignited, but to fully reunite they must first negotiate a gauntlet of obstacles Bernheim clumsily lays out before them. The most challenging arrives in the form of Lucas, a hunky, benevolent doctor played by a suddenly graying Chad Michael Murphy of “One Tree Hill” fame. Even after spying him creepily ogling her during her yoga class, Lana accepts his invitation for drinks and dinner. Does he really stand a chance with a woman 20 years his senior when the even sexier and more seasoned Will is never more than a few steps away?

Bratt makes the choice even more obvious, projecting a cool-dude persona while emerging as the only character with an ounce of style and charisma. It can’t fully compensate for the total lack of chemistry between him and Shields, but he at least keeps you interested – for a while. Eventually, the implausibilities and lukewarm performances drag him down with the rest of the lot, including Sean Teale as Will’s son, R.J.; Rachael Harris as Emma’s annoying aunt, Janice; and Wilson Cruz as Will’s gay brother, Scott.

As the movie lumbers toward its painfully predictable conclusion, it frequently exposes Shields as its albatross. Her delivery is flat and her cracks at physical comedy (repeatedly falling into the drink, struggling into a hideous bridesmaid gown) are more embarrassing than amusing. Waters and Bernheim further degrade the proceedings by demanding that this smart cookie be a Debbie Downer dowager whose dated vernacular comprises terms like “fetching” and “little black book.”

“Mother of the Bride” does at least prove a compelling travelogue for Phuket, a little piece of Eden appealingly photographed by Ed Wu. But the fantasy porn becomes a bit much. Are we really to believe that Emma, unbeknownst to her mama bear, is an online influencer with so many followers that she’s getting an extravagant wedding gratis? Yet it’s in keeping with a movie guilty of cheating on its audience. All the more reason to abandon this “Bride” at the altar.

Movie review

Mother of the Bride

Rated: TV-PG for language, substances and suggestive dialogue

Cast: Brooke Shields, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Sean Teale, Rachael Harris and Chad Michael Murphy

Director: Mark Waters

Writer: Robin Bernheim

Runtime: 88 minutes

Where: Debuting on Netflix May 9

Grade: D

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