Forgettable ‘Table 19’ sets ‘Breakfast Club’ in the banquet hall
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“You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.” – “The Breakfast Club”
Not sure if the guests at Table 19 have ever seen “The Breakfast Club,” but whether they know it or not, they’ve been plunked into a modern-day, wedding-reception takeoff on that John Hughes favorite from the 1980s.
Instead of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal, the guests at Table 19 include a bickering couple, a nanny, a dumped princess, a nerd and, yes, a criminal.
Strangers sentenced to an afternoon together, at the most remote of tables, far removed from the cool kids — punished for being different and forgotten and misunderstood. Hmmm, I wonder if after initially regarding one another with disdain and indifference, they’ll learn each other’s backstories and bond together against common foes?
And just in case we don’t get the 1980s influence, the wedding band conveniently plays only covers of ’80s pop hits such as “Dance Hall Days,” “All Through the Night,” “Heart and Soul” and “I Melt With You”!
The sometimes clunky, sometimes dopey, occasionally sweet and utterly harmless “Table 19” is a Gimmick Movie that takes place nearly entirely during the course of a wedding reception, save for a funny prologue introducing us to some of the characters reacting to the wedding invite, and a neatly packaged epilogue where we find out what happened to those same characters approximately a year after the wedding.
It’s the kind of movie that will help you kill 90 minutes in light-chuckle fashion on a flight — and if you have to get up to use the bathroom halfway through, you won’t miss all that much. It’s the kind of movie you can watch with Mom when it pops up on your Netflix cue.
Anna Kendrick, doing that smart-funny-attractive-hyper-sometimes annoying thing she does so well, plays Eloise, best friend of the bride and ex-girlfriend of the bride’s brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn), who we’re told dumped Eloise via text message shortly before the wedding. What a cad!
Just like that, Eloise goes from maid-of-honor and co-wedding planner to outcast at Table 19. Probably the best move for Eloise would be to skip the wedding — but then we wouldn’t have a movie, would we?
Also at Table 19:
• The great June Squibb plays Jo, the long-ago nanny to the bride.
• Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow are the Kepps, a bickering couple who own a diner in Columbus, Ohio, and have a tenuous connection to the proceedings.
• Tony Revolori (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) is Renzo, an awkward geek with a domineering mother who pushed him to attend the wedding instead of his junior prom because Mom thinks he has a better chance of scoring with girls that don’t actually know him.
• Rounding out the table is Walter (Stephen Merchant), the recently incarcerated nephew of the bride’s father.
Misfits one and all.
One of the problems with “Table 19” is the Anna Kendrick character. It’s difficult to like her, especially when she acts like a crazed stalker for the first half of the film. Even when we learn some very predictable things about her situation, we’re still not entirely sympathetic to her plight.
Same thing with the Kepps. They’re so cold and nasty to each other, there’s never a point where we’re rooting for them to rekindle their love. They’re like that couple you know who are always, always fighting, and all you want them to do is split up so you’re not subjected to the collateral damage of their mutual loathing any more.
Also, there’s some gratuitous and completely unfunny meanness in the depictions of some fringe characters, e.g., the mother of the bride, a sad and bitter alcoholic whose arc goes nowhere. Wrong tone.
To the credit of the script (the talented Jay and Mark Duplass wrote the original story), “Table 19” introduces some classic John Hughes movie tropes and then flips our expectations. That’s kind of fun.
And even when the movie resorts to pratfalls, reaction shots of a cute dog and other lazy gimmicks, the actors give true and solid performances that sometimes rise above the material.
You’ve been to worse weddings — and just as many that were more memorable.
Fox Searchlight presents a film directed by Jeffrey Blitz and written by Blitz, Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass,. Rated PG-13 (for thematic elements, sexual content, drug use, language and some brief nudity). Running time: 87 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.