Bride Wars review

By Jon Sandys

Fri 16th Jan 2009

Even though I'm a romantic comedy fan, the prospect of seeing this was fairly daunting due to a combination of mediocre to appalling reviews, the fact that it's not really a romcom, and the fact that I was going with two slightly tipsy women, who I worried might alternately get overly girly at the wedding stuff, and overly irate at the fact that neither of them are married just yet. As it turned out, all three concerns were 100% justified.

The basic premise is that two women who've been friends since childhood both get engaged around the same time, both have their hearts set on a June wedding in a specific location, and both manage to book it - one at the start of the month, one at the end. Then due to a mix-up they both get booked on the same day, start wondering which of them will switch (the next available June spot being 3 years away), then after a semi-misunderstanding they both think the other one's ploughing ahead regardless, and then begins a "hilarious" sequence of sabotage efforts, each of them trying to ruin the other's wedding plans while they both arrange their ceremony for the same day.

Admittedly I'm not the target audience for this, being male with no current wedding plans, but even so, the fact that both of these "friends" turn on each other so swiftly with no real effort made at any compromise for the vast majority of the movie, felt entirely unbelievable. They're both fairly one-dimensional (one hard-nosed lawyer, the other a push-over teacher), the grooms are sidelined throughout (part of the "joke", I suppose, but frankly that wasn't funny enough to come across), and they both come across as fairly unpleasant and/or unlikeable. Most of the major disruptive attempts are seen in the trailer anway, so we're hardly surprised by the blue hair or the orange tan, and for about 2/3 of the movie it all seems entirely by numbers and a waste of time.

However, towards the end a glimmer of characterisation and human interest shines through, and while this doesn't quite redeem the film, it at least stopped irritating me enough I could enjoy a bit of what was going on. Both the brides realise how far things have gone, they start realising how much they each miss their best friend, we finally get a glimpse of each bride actually interacting properly with their future spouse, making it clear that one couple has a future and the other doesn't, and a seed of potential interest is sown between the unhappy bride and another male character.

All of this is suddenly much more engaging, and I even felt a twinge of emotion at the point where the father of one bride pays a visit to the orphaned other bride before the ceremony to say a few kind words. While this last 20+ minutes lifts the film up a bit, it also makes it painfully obvious quite how lazy the rest has been. Much like Four Christmases, which I felt was a decent dramatic premise hampered by a relentless determination and inability to turn it into a comedy, this feels like it should have been a much better film before someone stripped out huge chunks of emotion and replaced it with blue hair dye and fake tan.

Even in bad romantic comedies, I occasionally take solace in the "best friend" character(s) often being played by good but second-fiddle actors who are given fun dialogue or free reign, but even that joy was stripped out here. I don't mean that the actors are bad (although I only recognised Kristen Johnston, who as with everyone else was given a fairly unlikeable character to play), but all the roles beyond the brides are watered down so much as to be almost pointless. There are one or two nice moments near the start as a couple of their female friends find out about the wave of engagements, but these aren't built on in any way, relegating the friends to the occasional line in the rest of the film. Likewise the grooms, who could have played a much bigger part in how things played out, but instead get the job of infrequent support or irritation as the plot demands it.

I'm ranting on slightly, but films that undershoot their potential do that to me. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway both do the best with what they've got, don't get me wrong - this is entirely a script issue, as far as I can see. None of the sabotage efforts are funny enough, primarily because we have no real reason to care about what happens because they're both as bad as each other. Plus from the trailer we know they both end up having a ceremony on the same day anyway, so there's no tension in terms of anything going too badly wrong. With bulked-up secondary characters, a better constructed plot, and ramping up the emotion from the start, rather than just the final act, this could have been a fairly decent movie. As it is, by the time we're given anything to care about it's too little too late - the only silver lining is that at least you'll only be bored and irritated for the first 60 minutes rather than the whole 90.

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