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What Other Versions of Father of The Bride Had That HBO Max's Reboot Doesn't

Collider logo Collider 6/27/2022 Lauren Waters
© Provided by Collider

Which Father of the Bride adaptation you’re most familiar with varies from person to person. The original arrived on the scene in 1950. It was a film adaptation of the Edward Streeter novel of the same name that came out the year prior. Forty-one years later, the 1991 remake starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton followed in its footsteps down the aisle. The newest remake starring Andy Garcia as the titular character premiered on June 16th on HBO Max and joined the ranks of its celebrated predecessors. But, despite its determined efforts to recreate this generational story for a new generation, the new Father of the Bride fails to do what its source material did so well: capturing how familial love, at its best, grows, changes, and perseveres over time. The remake seemed primed to hit this target, given that it has the same central story and themes as those which had gone before. How did it miss?

RELATED: ‘Father of the Bride’ Review: The Latest Remake Lacks the Warmth and Humor This Story Needs

Father of the Bride is all about generations and watching those you love grow and change. As Hollywood has kept telling this story again and again for 70 years, it’s safe to say that there’s something truly timeless about it. Of course, the ’91 remake looked very different from the original. But, its core is still the same. Both movies are about fathers struggling to let go of their daughters who are preparing for their wedding and their reluctance to accept the passage of time. In the end, though, the titular fathers come to terms with their daughters growing up and the fact that while the inevitable change that comes with growth can be painful, it is also something to be celebrated. Both movies are about families and how, even when they face difficulties as they meet life’s milestones, familial love can still persevere.

Of course, in 2022, a story about friction between generations comes along with myriad new concepts to deal with. There is quite a different set of issues to address, and for a dad set in his antiquated ways in 2022, he will undoubtedly have a struggle ahead of him. And, in many ways, the new struggles that the protagonist of a Father of the Bride is bound to face mean that this new and updated version of an old character is exactly what we need. The latest remake set out to give us just that. In a welcome update, the family in this edition is Cuban-American, and the film gracefully and entertainingly addresses struggles and joys particular to their identity. Beyond that, the film moves the conversation forward regarding its depiction of women. One daughter, for instance, is a fashion designer creating jumpsuits instead of quinceañera dresses. The other is a lawyer prioritizing humanitarian work over salary who proposed to her male fiancé. These details that bring Father of the Bride into the present are wonderfully realistic updates to a somewhat antiquated narrative.

The newest father, Billy, is more focused on tethering his daughter to the traditions of the past than in the previous films — a storyline perhaps inspired by the immigrant experience in America. Yet, in an ironic twist, sticking to tradition was exactly how this new installment could have better succeeded. This remake lacks what its source material had: a grasp on how emotional growing pains feel and a perpetual presence throughout the films that assures us that things will turn out okay.

The 1991 remake and its sequels, Part II and Part 3 (ish), capture something special that is worth repeating. Sure, the first of the (almost) trilogy seemed like a movie that wasn’t a great candidate for a sequel. Yet, Father of the Bride Part II (a sort-of remake of Father’s Little Dividend – the original film’s sequel with a similar plot) was able to be just as good as its predecessor. It was successful because of how it captured the feeling of hope and excitement for life’s big milestones as well as nostalgia that was central to the first film while moving the story of the family growing and expanding forward. At the height of the 2020 COVID lockdown, Father of the Bride Part 3 (ish) was released on Netflix. This short sequel reunited Nancy Meyers and the cast (plus some stars as new additions) 25 years after the sequel. The short film showed the Banks family meeting over Zoom for yet another family wedding. Like its two predecessors, the third installment moves its generational story along and captures a new era of the Banks family in a timely way.

The sequels gave the movie more time to tell a story that, in many ways, is all about time. Every iteration of Father of the Bride captures a specific moment in time and a different common milestone for families: marriage, pregnancy, hardship, and separation, as illustrated by the 2020 COVID lockdown, etc. Father of the Bride (2022) appreciates this about its predecessors. But, as it attempted to meet the needs of the plights, experiences, and concerns of a new generation, Billy’s outdated views and stubbornly-enforced rules feel more like a depiction of how families grow apart when the going gets tough than how they overcome the hardships that life’s milestones present.

Billy stands opposed to many of his daughters’ choices. And while the fathers in the past films’ main concerns were the cost of their daughters’ weddings, Billy is eager to pay for the wedding but hellbent on maintaining control over his daughters. He wants to take away his daughter Sofia’s (Adria Arjona) agency because of the choices she makes for her wedding and make the choices himself. He even goes as far as to talk with his future son-in-law about how he should support his bride financially after the couple makes it clear that they are against this mentality. While this dynamic isn’t unrealistic, it makes it more difficult for viewers to connect with Billy, putting us at arm’s length from the story.

Father of the Bride should be a story that captures the nostalgia and bitter-sweetness of watching those you love as they grow, even if it sometimes means growing apart. The Father of the Brides of the past not only had a knack for harnessing this familiar yet seldom depicted feeling, but they had an interest in putting to rest viewers’ anxieties about them. George Banks, the father in the ’91 version, is anxiety about the future in human form. Viewers watched as he panicked about all the worst-case scenarios for the upcoming wedding, the forthcoming babies, the lockdown, etc., and we understood his fears. We also watched as Nina assured and reassured him that things would be okay. And, we watched as both of them, in many ways, were right. Things never went off without some of George’s predicted hitches, and in the end, all was always well. A 2022 version of the bride's parents needed this balance to allow the movie’s hopefulness to persevere and give room for the other themes to shine through.

The impulse to remake Father of the Bride is a good one. But, the only way to successfully update a classic is to replicate what made the original tick on an emotional level. For Father of the Bride, that is the notion of generational growing pains, familial love, and how it viscerally captures the bittersweet feeling of the passage of time. In failing to replicate that, the newest version lacks what a Father of the Bride movie has always been about. Although it’s a welcome update in various ways, it lacks the same magic its predecessors had.

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