Employing weddings to make women cry (Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Singer, The Wedding Date, The Runaway Bride) is a cheap and easy tactic. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s simply ... unsporting (to say nothing of uninspired) of filmmakers.
And yet, year after year, there they are, posters lining the hallways of cineplexes, DVD boxes crowding the New Release shelves of Blockbuster--Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock or someone of that ilk smiling in a white lace gown while some scruffy hunk stands, arms crossed in lighthearted unconcern, beside her. The trite image is Hollywood’s unsubtle way of screaming “chick flick” to anyone with a soft spot in their heart for derivative romantic comedies.
Bearing all that in mind, there’s nothing patently wrong with the new romantic comedy 27 Dresses. It does what roughly a thousand other romcoms before it have done: deliver the boy-meets-girl formula, a bunch of pretty clothes and a thoroughly conventional affirmation of the institution of marriage as the ne plus ultra in any girl’s life.
Somewhat self-effacing and occasionally winsome Katherine Heigl--clearly cast in hopes of luring some “Grey’s Anatomy” fans away from their reruns--is our protagonist, Jane. Jane’s a young New Yorker seemingly determined to live the “always a bridesmaid never a bride” motto. Jane has the singular distinction of having served as a bridesmaid on no less than 27 occasions. Rather than view this as an excuse for suicide or cat hoarding, marriage-mad Jane proudly catalogues her hideous frocks in an overstuffed closet, subscribes to countless bride magazines and spends her days reading nothing but wedding announcements in the newspaper. All of this is designed to make her appear as some sort of quirky romantic, but makes her seem more like a total crazy woman.
One day, while doing double duty on two weddings at once, Jane bumps into scruffy hunk Kevin (James Marsden, Enchanted). Kevin’s a rude cynic. Jane’s a cheerful romantic. Wait. They’re opposites? And they’re attracted? Why hasn’t someone tried to milk this dynamic before?
By sheer screenwriting coincidence, Kevin happens to be a newspaper reporter whose unhappy job it is to write wedding announcements--the very same wedding announcements that Jane cuts out and pastes in her scrapbook! Sensing a great feature story in this perennial bridesmaid, Kevin suggests writing an article about Jane to his editor. Instead of simply asking Jane for an interview, however, Kevin steals her day planner, insults her regularly and spends several months trying to hit on her. Why? Well, because romantic comedies require the male lead to lie to the female lead so they can break up 15 minutes before the final credits.
Before she can get around to her break-up-to-make-up relationship with Kevin, though, Jane’s got to sort out her other cliché relationship with George (Ed Burns, the poor man’s Alec Baldwin). George is Jane’s studly, nature-loving boss upon whom she has harbored an unrequited, multiyear crush. Naturally, she can’t tell him she likes him, so she’s forced to regularly confess her feelings to her sassy best friend (played here by Judy Greer of “Arrested Development” fame).
At some point, Jane’s irresponsible younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman, not-so-hot off The Heartbreak Kid) shows up. Tess meets and instantly falls in love with George. A few quick montages later, Tess and George are engaged, forcing spineless Jane to act as bridesmaid while her sister marries the man Jane secretly loves.
As you can probably guess, 27 Dresses holds on to traditional romcom clichés with an iron death grip, refusing to let even the most shopworn among them go free. Opposites attract? Check. Slutty best friend? Yup. Characters bonding while drunkenly singing along to a golden oldie? Got it. Scene in which Boy and Girl reunite for climactic apology at big public spectacle so they can kiss while a crowd of random strangers claps and cheers? Oh, yeah.
Given the subject matter at hand, can you really blame filmmakers for sticking to the “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” mantra? 27 Dresses was old, plenty of it was borrowed and it certainly blew. Hey, three outta four ain’t bad.