Directed By: Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jon Hamm, Chris O’Dowd, Rebel Wilson, Matt Lucas
As a huge Kristen Wiig fan, I was very excited for Bridesmaids. And, as a huge fan of the idea of a female Hangover, I was very excited to see a group of crazy ladies get into all sorts of shenanigans gearing up for their best friend’s big day. Bridesmaids certainly makes due on some of my expectations, but also attempts to show off a more dramatic side and while that effort isn’t a complete failure, the parts I was looking forward to are just so exceptionally successful, it’s impossible that they not tarnish the more dramatic material.
Annie and Lillian (Wiig and Maya Rudolph) are best friends. They do what best friends do; shadily work out behind a tree in a park when they don’t want to pay for the class, smear muffin on their teeth and have conversations and, of course, name the other her Maid of Honor for her wedding. Lillian is about to take the plunge and assigns Annie the Maid of Honor duties with the help of an assortment of other, well, characters in her life. There’s Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the bitter mother, Becca (Ellie Kemper), the naïve newlywed, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), Lillian’s husband’s rather boisterous sister and the bane of Annie’s existence, Helen (Rose Byrne), little miss perfect who’s trying to oust Annie as Lillian’s BFF.
When Annie isn’t scrambling to outdo Helen in wedding world, she’s attempting to maintain a romantic relationship of her own. Too bad her current fling, Ted (Jon Hamm), is more than happy keeping their thing in the F-buddy zone. However, Annie’s beat-up ride works to her benefit when her busted taillights catch the eye of a sweetheart cop looking for love, Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd).
Clearly there are two pieces to Bridesmaids, the bridal party and Annie’s solo storyline. Yes, they interweave quite a bit, but the tones are quite different. Whereas the parts that follow Annie and her fellow bridesmaids are downright hilarious and rather ridiculous, the ones centered on Annie’s failing love life are borderline straight drama. This is where the issue with Bridesmaids creeps in; based on the names attached and all of the promotional material, you’re expecting a straight comedy about a crew of misfits trying to plan a wedding. While you do get a bit of that, you also get a heck of a lot of something else and that something else is a little on the slow side and far less successful.
Wiig is immensely likeable as Annie no matter who she’s with, the bridesmaids or her men. However, when she’s with the gals, she’s much more fun. Some of the moments between Annie and Ted are amusing while some of the ones between Annie and Rhodes are sweet, but ultimately these scenes highlight Annie’s sad sack side, which is a bit of a downer. Also, the characters can get a little mean. Whereas this works with Ted as his poor attitude is playfully so, when Annie blows up at Rhodes it’s entirely unjustified, making her come across as a selfish heartbreaker. Then, when the tables turn and Rhodes has the upper hand, he basically torments her when she desperately tries to apologize. These moments aren’t failures in the least, they’re just such a departure from the other material, which is so wildly amusing, you can’t help but to wish the film would just get to the good stuff.
And that’s brings us to what all of Bridesmaids should have been about, the five-some planning Lillian’s wedding. The group is packed with colorful characters all of which are endlessly entertaining. Writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo maximize their individuality through a handful of incredibly hilarious mishaps. This is where the parallel to The Hangover comes in. Most of the fun of that film is seeing the three guys get into absurd situations and the humor is enhanced through the group dynamic. The same is true here, but sadly, that’s not the focus of the film. It should be called Maid of Honor rather than Bridesmaids because it’s Wiig’s character that’s the centerpiece, not the group.
However, Wiig does prove she can carry a film. There is a ton of dead air in between gags and the piece’s pace does slow during the non-bridesmaids scenes, but what makes the two hours fly is Wiig’s ability to make Annie extremely engaging. Unfortunately, for Rudolph and O’Dowd, while their characters are sweet and likeable, they’re entirely overshadowed by the eccentricities of the bridesmaids. Byrne proves, yet again, that she’s got a lot to offer in the comedy genre. While most of her non-comedy roles tend to make her come across as dull and rather lifeless (save for Insidious), she works wonders with more colorful characters like Helen and Jackie Q from Get Him to the Greek. Neither Kemper nor McLendon-Covey get much screen time, but they manage to turn the time they do have into some of the film’s most memorable moments. Similarly, McCarthy creates some unforgettably hilarious scenes as Megan, but she also boasts some rather heartwarming ones, too. In fact, she’s got one scene with Wiig during which there’s an impressively unique blend of emotion and silliness.
No, Bridesmaids isn’t entirely what I hoped for, but the parts that honored my expectations are. As for the portions that focus on Annie’s personal dramas, it’s not that they’re not enjoyable rather that the parts that make due on the film’s title are so immensely entertaining, you’ll wish the entire film had been just that, about the bridesmaids.
By Perri Nemiroff