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