From Jacob passing as Esau in order to steal Isaac’s blessing to Moses’ (unwitting) passing as an Egyptian in order to set the Exodus into motion, Jews have long been forced to pass as members of the dominant culture to succeed — or, even, to survive. History, from the Inquisition’s Conversos to the serial de-Judaizing of Hollywood stars’ names, has shown that camouflage can be as valuable among humans as it is in the animal kingdom in warding off predators, attracting mates and tricking food onto your plate. All of which the protagonists do prodigiously in “Wedding Crashers,” the most recent blockbuster to tackle passing, joining a lineage that includes such distinguished films as “The Bird Cage,” “Big Momma’s House” and “White Chicks.” Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play John and Jeremy, a pair of charming rogues and life-long friends, who, when not declaring, delineating and demonstrating their undying love for each other, crash weddings so that they can sleep with women (whose proximity to matrimony apparently sends them into estrus).
The first wedding crash we’re treated to is a Conservative Jewish affair (one no doubt familiar to screenwriters Bob Fisher and Steve Faber and director David Dobkin) and the boys have no problem passing (or scoring), successfully delivering toasts replete with choice Yiddishisms at the reception and dutifully holding the chairs aloft on the dance floor. From there the film transitions into an extended montage in which the boys pass (and score) with ease at Irish, Chinese, Italian and Hindu nuptials. They are not just gentiles passing as Jews, but Americans passing as Europeans, Westerners as Easterners, boys as men and in their most reflective moments, lawyers passing as human beings. And then comes the ultimate test:
At an upper-crust WASP wedding where the U.S. Treasury secretary (played by Christopher Walken) is giving away one of his three daughters, the boys set their sights on the other two, bridesmaids both, the thoughtful, foxy Claire (Rachel McAdams) and the horny, impetuous Gloria, played by Isla Fisher. The pair fall hard for the sisters and accompany the family to a post-wedding weekend at the clan compound for lawn football, sailing and furtive groping. Hilarity ensues during the film’s second act, a delightful mélange of Noel Coward and “American Pie.”
In the end, the “Wedding Crashers” moral, as in all films on the subject of passing, is that you should just be yourself. Just as Jacob didn’t really need to simulate Esau’s hairy arms to get his father’s blessing (Isaac always liked him better anyway), John and Jeremy just need to be themselves to find true love… and each other.
— JASON HERNANDEZ-ROSENBLATT