REVIEW: Kristen Wiig Deserves a Better Showcase Than Crass, Overlong Bridesmaids

Movieline Score:

Bridesmaids is the Bride of Frankenstein of contemporary comedies, a movie stitched together crudely, and only semi-successfully, from random chick flick and bromance parts. The picture stars, and is cowritten by, Kristen Wiig, whose doodlebug timing may be some sort of genius. Judd Apatow is one of the producers, which means it has that hip, knowing Apatow swagger. Paul Feig, whose credits include episodes of The Office and Arrested Development, directs. But Bridesmaids moves in tentative, jerky steps. Plenty of bits made me laugh, but much of it didn't sit right afterward, not least the wallflowery self-pity -- masquerading as "We can be as gross as the guys are!" empowerment -- of the basic premise. Bridesmaids obviously strives to seem modern, but too often it mistakes crassness for freshness.

Wiig plays Annie, a thirtyish Milwaukee woman who's still smarting after a bad breakup that coincided with the failure of her baking business. (She's now working in a jewelry store, attempting to sell diamond rings to happy couples, greeting their beaming faces with the expression of a pissed-off basset hound.) When her best friend from childhood, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), announces her engagement, Annie is the obvious choice for maid of honor. Even so, she faces competition -- perceived or otherwise -- for Lillian's affection and attention from one of the bride-to-be's newer friends, an ultra-polished princessy type named Helen (Rose Byrne). Helen is a schemer, in obvious ways and small ones: When Annie, knowing Lillian has always dreamed of going to Paris, brightly posits the idea of throwing her a Paris-themed bridal shower, Helen pooh-poohs the concept only to hijack it later, throwing an over-the-top affair with chocolate fondue fountains and beret-wearing puppies as party favors.

Annie's persistent, awkward, backfiring attempts to maintain Lillian's affection form just one of the many crisscrossing threads in Bridesmaids. Others involve Annie's impatient but generally benign interaction with the other members of Lillian's bridal party -- including a sex-starved wife and mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and a heavy-set take-charge tomboy type (Melissa McCarthy) who's like the Wife of Bath crossed with Julia Sweeney's old Saturday Night Live character Pat -- and her tentative romance with the cop who first tries to bust her for her car's broken tail light and later tries to woo her by sharing his bag of mini-carrots. (He's played, with a degree of sexy deadpan lassitude, by Chris Dowd.)

The gags in Bridesmaids -- which was written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo, both veterans of the Groundlings comedy-sketch troupe -- revolve around some of the usual horrors suffered upon those who are drafted into taking part in other people's nuptials, like too-expensive bridesmaid's dresses and the necessity of stuffing a sock in it when the bride's top choice for a gown looks as if it should have a plastic doll's head on top and a spare roll of toilet paper beneath. Some of these jokes are mildly diverting and some are inherently tired, though the point is to let the movie's ensemble cast run wildly with them. The movie's centerpiece is a protracted sequence in which the bride and her minions, after eating lunch in a cheapie restaurant chosen by the perpetually broke Annie, are struck by food poisoning just as they've trussed themselves into expensive dresses at a chi-chi bridal boutique.

They puke! They get the runs! Because, you know -- that stuff happens to girls, too. Feig goes for orchestrated mayhem, but he ends up with an unshaped free-for-all. That happens too often in Bridesmaids: Scenes that should run, say, a trim eight minutes ramble on for 12 or more. (The most frustrating is a tête-à-tête between Wiig and Byrne as they try to top one another in their engagement-party toasts; instead of getting funnier the longer it goes on, it wears itself down to an exhausted nub.)

Much of what's disappointing about Bridesmaids comes down to that kind of flabbiness -- scene after scene, it becomes a kind of "look at me" self-indulgence. At first I enjoyed the off-the-cuff give-and-take between Wiig and Rudolph -- they're like sisters who communicate almost exclusively in cutup shorthand. (In one scene, they try to steal an outdoor fitness class by hiding behind a tree; when they're outed by the musclebound drill-sergeant instructor, they run off screaming and giggling like naughty toddlers.) But there's a point at which two actors' affinity can cease being chemistry and become an inside joke. After a while, Wiig and Rudolph's riffing begins to look like a club we've been shut out of.

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Comments

  • Nacho Free says:

    Why did they ask our spinster aunt to review this? If you are surprised to find crassness within a female-centric Hangover rip-off, I don't know what you were expecting. It's an understood quality of it. It's like deducting points from Dude, Where's My Car for "having all that stoner humor".

  • rm says:

    and did this grumpster just spoil the pop group reveal everyone else on movieline has been avoiding spoiling for everyone? they even redacted the name in the paul feig interview. grumpy grumpy pants.

  • John Bishop says:

    You used a very poor analogy comparing this film to the known classic, "Bride of Frankenstein." Perhaps you should have compared the film to, ahem, "Naked Lunch."

  • I really feel the collective unconscious of our culture is about to 'out' how restrictive women's roles have been. Film stories, too. Themes...
    Kudos for this article, BTW.

  • You know, I haven't yet seen this movie, but I did edit this review, and I would never have deduced that spoiler had you not given away the context of the "anthem." I thought it was just a soundtrack choice. Now nobody wins!

  • rm says:

    i haven't seen the movie either, just making a point. the band name jumped out at me after reading feig's interview earlier today. i don't KNOW it's a spoiler, i was asking a legitimate question: "did this grumpster...".

  • Paul says:

    Yay! I can't wait to see it

  • firebrand says:

    Great review. I didn't like this movie either. It certainly wasn't funny.

  • TS says:

    I loved Bridesmaids. I thought it was approximately 1,000 times funnier and more endearing than The Hangover, which had no character development or real plot whatsoever (and is no comparison). I'm disappointed to hear the critic opine that she thought it had crappy roles for women, because I thought just the opposite: Annie, in particular, reacted hilariously and poignantly to so many real-life problems, like having your dreams fail, having sex with flaky men, being poor, feeling bad comparing yourself to rich and beautiful women, and watching your friends grow apart. I enjoyed the reveal of Helen's pathos, because it made her more than a simple villain, and by the same token I really enjoyed Megan trying to connect with Annie and get her to suck it up. Not everyone got fleshed out, but I can say that I cared about and related to them, meaning, at least for this woman right here, that it did an excellent job giving women a chance to shine, and not just be man-props. I also feel like Paul Feig is tremendously under served by not mentioning he created "Freaks and Geeks," another comedy/drama mix with a great female protagonist.

  • Michael F. says:

    You are correct, Steph, about Bridesmaids, in that it contains numerous entertaining moments, but fails as a cohesive whole - not because particular scenes drag on but that there are too many of them. This, rather than the crassness, I think, is the injurious blow landed by Apatow's otherwise magnanimous involvement. He can't boil down a script to its essence (see: his own movies), and so we see whole scenes illustrating: where she lives, her relationship with her mother, her failed ambition to bake! Thus the movie goes on forever (1 hr and 57 min.). And too were left with all these tonal shifts that feel awkward - are we really supposed to feel the cop is just a sweet winsome guy when he arranges for her to bake after they spent the night together? All I could think was - oh, shit, another creep. And, as you indicated, we don't even get to enjoy Helen's comeuppance, because they never commit to her insidiousness. They did it better in the Olsen Twins movie It Takes Two! Really. Take a look.

  • Troy says:

    This is awesome to come back and read what a totally off base jerkwad the reviewer was.

  • Sue says:

    I only came to this site to see what moron gave Bridesmaids a "C" on Fandango.com. Evidently, Stephanie, you've never experienced ANY of the hilarity that comes from close female friendship. While the characters portrayed the extreme to appeal to the "Hangover" audience, they were very REAL. The attachment Annie felt for her life-long best friend and the angst over fear of losing her and losing direction in her own life was very easy to relate to. But thanks for writing this horrible, curmudgeon-esque review. I'll be sure to NEVER read anything ever penned by you!

  • anonymous says:

    I agree with Firebrand. Great review, this movie was not funny. And yes, Sue,
    I have experienced great female friendships and wild times with those friends at college in the '70s. Annie was a pathetic character. This movie was a waste of my time and money.

  • Tricia says:

    In the 70s???? That was 40 years ago and the times have changed. Relationships between women have also changed.

  • Dapper says:

    To my mind, Wiig is outrageously good. I have a love-hate thing for her on SNL, but here she gives one of the great comedic performances of all time. Somewhere up there with Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby and Monroe in Some Like it Hot. Classic!

  • Riley says:

    Megan was my favorite character from Bridesmaids. She made me laugh the most because I have a friend just like her! Crazy and I know if I ever am down she is going to slap sense into me! I’ve been using the Blockbuster Movie Pass for a while now to rent movies and being able to rent DVDs and Blu-Rays like Bridesmaids whenever I want is one of the best advantages about it. I can even stream many different movies if I choose right to my TV or computer! Whether or not I worked for DISH, I would still have and use the Blockbuster Movie Pass. There is more than I could ever watch whenever I want. I hope to see both Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy more in the future!

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