The first Ang Lee film that I saw was "Crouching Tiger". I didn't realize that he had directed films as varied in theme as "Sense and Sensibility" and "The Ice Storm", both of which are excellent films. In some respects, I found "The Wedding Banquet" to be the most accessible and intimate of his films that I have seen. It's certainly the most humorous.
The plot has been summarized by other reviewers, and in lesser hands it could easily have turned the film into a cliche. Given that the film appeared in the early 1990's, it could also have look dated to viewers in 2004. However, this film is not dated and it's not a cliche. Instead, it's a warm-hearted (but never maudlin) look at the importance of family, cultural heritage, and the difficulty of leading a hidden life, even when your relatives live on the other side of the world.
Much of the dialogue is Chinese (with English subtitles), but this is one of those rare films where I quickly became accustomed to the subtitles and they did not interfere at all with my enjoyment of the movie. The fact that the Chinese characters actually spoke Chinese made the film more believable.
Ang Lee's talent for visual composition is apparent throughout the movie. It's filled with scenes of real beauty, which is not always the case with comedies. Too often, movie comedies are shot as if they were widescreen TV sitcoms. That's not the case here. The production values are consistently high, so much so that I was surprised to discover during the DVD featurette that it was a low-budget film.
This film is fun to watch, with excellent acting and outstanding direction.