Monday, December 31, 2007

Review: 27 Dresses

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman
Director: Anne Fletcher
Release Date: January 11, 2008
Running time: 107 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: 20th Century Fox

Romantic comedies tend to exist in their own little world, don’t they? A world where they make up their own rules without any real connection to the rest of the planet. A world where everything gets a tidy treatment and at the end of the day, everyone’s problems are solved in the span of about 100 minutes. They are the sitcoms of the movie world and they rarely make apologies for it.

Having sat through P.S. I Love You not 24 hours prior to watching this, I thought about the genre as a whole and did a little exercise. I sat down and made a quick list of all those plot devices I could think of that are overused in romantic comedies, just to see how many they would try in 27 Dresses. This list was based strictly on my best grasp of the subject matter and the fact that I had seen a similar movie less than a day before. This is not meant to be a complete list by any means - its just what I wrote down before the movie started:

- The lead character will be overworked.
- She will be interested in someone who is blissfully ignorant of that fact.
- This will run her ragged, to within an inch of her sanity.
- During this period of rickety behavior, the filmmakers will attempt to make her look frumpy by dressing her in less than attractive clothing (sweats, etc) and/or make her eat sloppily for added effect.
- Someone will fall in love or even get married in an insanely unrealistic amount of time (i.e. mere weeks).
- Everything will blow up in someone/everyone’s face.
- Someone will sing along with a song on a car radio. During this song, a relationship will grow in leaps and bounds.
- Someone’s atrociously unforgivable behavior will be forgotten thanks to a smile or gift or both.
- She will find the man she thinks is right, kiss him, and realize he is not at all right based solely on that kiss alone. They will both agree.
- Once the lead character ends up with whoever she ends up with and her transformation is complete, she will also have quit/changed jobs.
- There will be a disgustingly sweet, happy ending.

The picture begins, and we’re off.

27 Dresses painfully tells us the story of Jane (Katherine Heigl), who is the very definition of the saying, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” In case there was any confusion on that, we are lucky enough to have that very saying as the tagline for the movie. Jane has been in love with weddings since she was a little girl. When we first see her all grown up, she spends an evening cabbing back and forth between two simultaneous weddings so as not to let anyone down. Weddings she has helped, nay, completely planned down to a tee. We soon find out she is secretly and madly in love with her boss George (Edward Burns), a fact that he is of course, completely oblivious to (check). She is an underappreciated asset in her job (check), and spends all of her spare time being a bridesmaid for all of her friends, 27 so far to be exact (get it, 27 dresses…?).

Jane’s sister Tess (Malin Akerman) comes to visit her and in whirlwind fashion, falls in love with her boss, the so-called secret love of her life, and the two of them get engaged to be married (check). Guess who gets to plan it and be the Maid of Honor? Jane is sent into a downward spiral (check) and of course, every one of my list o’ clichés is checked off in grand fashion until the saccharine sweet ending barrels through and everybody wins (check mate). I am not really giving anything away by saying this because people who see this movie will be from one of three schools of thought. One, they have been suckered into seeing it by a female significant other and they don’t care. Two, they are a critic and are seeing it as a matter of duty, and they see the end coming from miles away. Or three, they are the significant other doing the dragging and even they know how it ends, and they don’t care. As we were walking out, the two females I saw this screening with asked me what I thought of it. I told them I thought it was boring, trite, cheesy and clichéd. Then I asked them what they thought of it. They said it was cheesy and clichéd but cute, and they liked it.

27 Dresses offers nothing new and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. This isn’t a bad thing as I don’t think they were really trying to do anything other than make a straightforward romantic comedy. If this movie had been a chess match, I would have played the part of Garry Kasparov, and it would have been over in about ten moves. My biggest complaint isn't about the genre, it's just how boring the whole thing is. The only enjoyment I got out of it was crossing item after item off my list as they showed up. And I laughed at exactly two jokes, neither of which I even remember anymore, if that tells you anything.

To rate this movie poorly because I am not the biggest fan of the genre is only half fair – half, because when it's made right, I will like just about anything. As a paying member of the movie-going population, I didn’t like the movie because it was as bland and tasteless as regular Kool-Aid without the sugar. As a critic, I didn’t like it because I could have written this review for any of the many similar movies that I have seen, changed the title and still been right on point. If P.S. I Love You was the ‘choose your own adventure’ of romantic comedies, this one was the ‘paint by numbers’ version. If anyone had tried to spruce it up by raging against the assigned color coordination, going against type would only have made it worse. So I guess it was a lose / lose from the jump.

And there’s the rub.

* 1/2 out of ****

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