Three times is... a lot of times to watch anything. I have some explaining to do.
Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish) is a remotely filmed sequel that checks in on how the Banks family of Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride Part II (1995) is handling the pandemic—all the while raising money for World Central Kitchen. Original writer and producer Nancy Meyers teamed up with Netflix to create the mini–movie, which aired on the Netflix YouTube channel on September 25th. The entire main cast returned: Steve Martin as neurotic patriarch George Banks; Diane Keaton as his far calmer wife, Nina; Kieran Culkin as their son Matty, looking significantly older than in the previous films; Kimberly Williams as daughter Annie, the original “bride"; and George Newbern as Bryan, the original groom. You can't forget, of course, Martin Short, who had lost no enthusiasm in his most recent portrayal of the manic, ambiguously foreign wedding planner, “Franck”.
There was nothing impressive to take away from my first viewing of Part 3 (ish). The humor didn’t seem to pop in the way I had remembered and there were less “antics” possible over Zoom, eliminating some of the farcical aspects that made the original film so entertaining. But before I could write a scathing review, I realized my first mistake: I had watched Part 3 (ish) while doing my makeup for the day. This meant that I had not, in fact, watched it with my mother—the one to blame for my love of goofy comedies from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Subsequently, this meant that I would be watching the film again.
As I sat down with my mother and sisters for the inevitable second viewing, I warned that it “just wasn’t the same as the original." But to my surprise, I found myself laughing along with my mother to jokes that had fallen flat before. George’s comments on ordering copious amounts of masks and opening packages without contaminating himself slowly began to feel derivative of his eccentric neuroses from planning for weddings and babies all those years ago. Despite this, the finale of the movie didn’t culminate in the same sweet way as the first. The ingredients were all there, but the coldness of a Zoom call made it difficult, even for these actors, to portray emotions as anything more than a hollow recreation of the original sincerity. My second mistake was not understanding that this is okay.
Throughout quarantine, television, movie, and theatre casts have reunited, occasionally for scripted Zoom specials such as this one. I’ve gotten especially excited for the 30 Rock NBC upfront special and the Parks and Recreation fundraiser. But both times, I also felt let down. It just wasn’t the same. In this era of constant reboots and remakes, I couldn’t understand why these shows with award–winning writers and performers weren’t as easy to connect to. But the reality of today’s world is that things aren’t the same as when 30 Rock or Parks and Rec aired. It’s an especially different setting from that of Father of the Bride. We don’t have the ability to congregate for a wedding, all stuffed into one house, and bask in the sharing of love with friends and family. As George carefully calculates in Part 3 (ish), congregating the entire Banks family in a socially distanced manner would require a “27 foot by 72–inch table”—an obvious impracticality.
These days, when it comes to spending time with family and friends, we have to take what we can get. Despite trying to work against it, the pandemic has forced us to become somewhat emotionally distant. We don’t have the luxury of hugging someone close and physically receiving their love. We can’t host guests in our homes with whom to share a meal when we aren’t even supposed to share air. Everything is limited. But again, we have to take what we can get. We steal moments sitting outside of our grandparents' garages, less frequently as the air gets chillier. We take advantage of an open parking lot to sit in trunks across from old friends. We appreciate more than ever the people with whom we have maintained physical closeness—our families for the moment, chosen or otherwise.
This is why, when it comes to Father of the Bride reunions and the like, I’ll take what I can get. Even if it’s not quite the same as I remembered, I’m happy to catch a glimpse of the love that this movie family holds for each other. I’m glad to see the moments in Part 3 (ish) that help me slip into nostalgia for the pre–pandemic world (sometimes literally, in flashback form). But I also appreciate the fact that the movie accurately reflects the emotional distancing currently occurring. Above all, however, I’m grateful to have my family right across the couch, neither emotionally nor physically distant, to watch it with me.
As we finished up with my second watching of Part 3 (ish), my father returned home from work. He and my mother are physicians, so nowadays returning from work involves disposing of PPE, removing coats, belts, and shoes in the garage, placing all clothes in a bin to be sanitized, washing hands, and then heading straight for the showers. It’s quite a process, but worth the effort. Once he was done and sitting in the living room with us, I had a hunch as to what my next activity would be.
The third viewing did not disappoint. I probably laughed even harder. My whole family cried at the end this time. I could say that it was suddenly better written and performed, but more likely, I think, it reminded us all of how lucky we were, seven months into the pandemic, to be together.