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'Samoan Wedding' is for adults only

To go, four friends in their 30s start the painful yet hilarious process of growing up.

February 09, 2007|Kevin Thomas | Special to The Times

"Samoan Wedding" is a rowdy, bawdy New Zealand comedy that perceptively depicts the universal with the particular in an amusing, affectionate way. The setting -- the particular -- is Auckland's substantial Samoan community; the universal is any urban community in which a group of guys in their 30s are not doing a good job of growing up.

Not even remotely attempting to embrace maturity are Michael (Robbie Magasiva), a physically imposing pursuer of white women; Albert (Oscar Kightley, who also wrote the film with James Griffin), a wimpy middle-management insurance executive; Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi), a man who has committed all his faith and attention to dating services in his search for the perfect woman; and Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi), a chronic betrayer of his elegant live-in lover, Leilani (Teuilla Blakely). They spend virtually all their free time hanging out together, playing basketball, getting drunk and, with the exception of Albert, chasing women.

Their penchant for hell-raising has marred a number of weddings to such an extent that the local minister has banned them from the upcoming nuptials of Michael's younger brother -- unless they arrive accompanied by honest-too-goodness girlfriends, not just dates for the evening. Since Leilani has finally had it and departed, Sefa finds himself in the same boat as his pals. Writers Kightley and Griffin gleefully chart the guys' frequently hilarious struggle to qualify for admission to the wedding. They discover that, like it or not, they have engaged at last in the often painful and uncertain process of becoming adults.

At work the bespectacled, stocky Albert has an office mate, the demure Tania (Madeleine Sami), who is secretly in love with him but to whom he is oblivious. He instead is lining up his cousin, Princess (Maryjane McKibbin-Schwenke), to accompany him to the wedding, but this gorgeous playgirl (portrayed by a former Miss Samoa, no less) zeroes in on Michael, her counterpart in spectacular looks and aggressive sexuality.

Directed by Chris Graham with zest and good-natured perception, "Samoan Wedding" eschews the often self-consciously staged rituals that mar films set in ethnic communities and is instead content to celebrate the underlying bonds of loyalty and respect that ultimately tie these Samoans together. Benefiting from relatively unfamiliar photogenic locales, "Samoan Wedding" is consistently imaginative, revealing and funny.

Unrated. Adult situations, considerably raunchy dialogue. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. Exclusively at Laemmle's Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.

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