By Ken Tucker
Updated December 15, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

It was easy for cineastes to sneer at 1991’s Father of the Bride: Why, the nerve of cowriter-director Charles Shyer and cowriter Nancy Meyers to remake director Vincente Minnelli’s 1950 classic with Steve Martin in the Spencer Tracy role and Kimberly Williams in Elizabeth Taylor’s! The sneers will only increase for Father of the Bride Part II, a new version of the sequel, 1951’s Father’s Little Dividend; how dare Shyer and Meyers remake…an inferior sequel! This sort of sniping gets tedious fast. Fact is, Father of the Bride Part II starts off weak but finishes strong—wacky and weepy, silly and sweet.

The ’91 FOB installed Martin and Diane Keaton in the roles of the parents (originally played by Tracy and Joan Bennett) anxious for the married happiness of their daughter (doe-eyed Williams). The movie was swift, light, and funny.

In FOB II, once you understand the gimmick, you can predict the jokes. Daughter Annie (Williams) is pregnant; her mother Nina (Keaton) is due a few weeks later. The movie positions paterfamilias George (Martin) in the middle: He’s going to be a father and a grandfather at the same time, and he suffers through a whopper of a midlife crisis.

Feeling prematurely elderly, George dyes his snow-white hair shoe-polish brown and flexes feeble muscles at the local gym. Martin can do slapstick like this in his sleep…so Shyer and Meyers give him a scene in which he’s groggy on sleeping pills. Martin Short’s Franck the event planner is back, to shriek deliriously, babble incoherently, and decorate the nursery. The whole movie is an elaborate fantasy of upper-middle-class WASP life, with other realities represented only in stereotype. Franck’s gayness is treated affectionately (and therefore condescendingly). But the caricature of a cold, rich Middle Easterner (SCTV‘s Eugene Levy) amounts to a glaring ethnic slur.

Sure, Martin and Keaton squander their talents on this sentimental piffle, but it’s hard to begrudge these two stars a couple of commercial hits. And oh, those adorable babies at the conclusion! The audience I saw Father of the Bride Part II with loved this big, corny, old-fashioned movie; as crowd-pleasers go, it’s a shrewd one. B-