Bride Wars (2009)
In early 2007, it seemed like Eddie Murphy was destined to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dreamgirls. The funnyman was racking up honors for his fiery portrayal of a fallen Motown singer. Then came ads for the atrocious Norbit where Murphy played three roles, including a grotesquely overweight woman and a racist portrayal of an old Asian man. Was it much of a surprise then when Murphy lost out to Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) whose character died halfway into the film? I suppose Academy voters took long looks at those appalling Norbit ads and said, “Academy Award-winning star of Norbit? I don’t think so.” Earlier in 2008, Anne Hathaway starred in Rachel Getting Married and became a surefire Oscar contender with her bitterly funny portrayal of an ex-druggie released for her big sis’ wedding. Hopefully the Academy will ignore the awful comedy Bride Wars or Hathaway will be doomed to follow Murphy’s lead (personally I think this is Kate Winslet’s year).
Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) have been dreaming of getting married since they were little girls. Both girls were at New York City’s Plaza Hotel and witnessed a wedding reception. They both swore that day to get hitched at the luxurious hotel. The girls grow up and Liv works as a hotshot attorney and Emma is a schoolteacher. Both get proposed at the same time and the high-pitched squealing ensues. Emma wants Liv to be her maid of honor and vice versa. The ladies seek the services of Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), the greatest wedding planner in the city. She delights the duo by booking them for two June wedding dates at the illustrious Plaza Hotel. Then comes the bad news. The booking dates got mixed up and the weddings are booked on the same day. The next open date at the Plaza is in three years time. Both women refuse to budge. Then a bridal arms race begins. Each would-be bride tries to sabotage the other’s wedding preparations.
Bride Wars is indulgent and tiring and occasionally obnoxious, much like the main characters. These characters are one-note and the movie drills that one note repeatedly; Liv is domineering and Emma is a pushover. I don’t care about these characters, and when the movie ramps up the sentiment in the final 20 minutes it doesn’t work because I feel no emotional attachment, and waning interest, in these people. Hudson’s Liv serves as the real antagonist for like half the movie’s running time. She comes across as brash, pushy, unlikable, narcissistic, and overbearing, and her unflagging desire to win is what pushes the conflict. Emma and Liv view their husbands-to-be more as accessories to their collective Big Days, and the movie seems to treat them the same way. The three bland male leads (Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey) even look vaguely the same, and Bride Wars just allows them to slowly fade away. Like the Sex and the City movie, the women come across as deeply shallow and petty, people more worried about ceremony than every day after that fairy tale wedding. The film’s comedic focus is on uninspired slapstick and the pranks that the ladies play. Bride Wars practically excuses the bridezilla bedlam because it eventually makes Emma a stronger person who can stand up for her self after long last.
The initial conflict seems trite and readily negotiable. So the girls have their weddings scheduled on the same day, and they can’t work this out? Why such drama if they’re both lifelong best friends? They couldn’t just have a double wedding? Here’s what I don’t understand. Marion tells our ladies that the Plaza has three June openings, two on the 6th and one at the end of the month. Liv gets one date and Emma gets the other date, and then a third woman (co-writer and Saturday Night Live actress Casey Wilson) grabs the final June 6th slot. So when Marion announces that her assistant switched the dates, why wouldn’t the third woman want to swap back? She’s been planning for her wedding to be on June 6, so why wouldn’t she want to keep the date she already agreed upon? Likely this woman has begun to plan around the specific date and it would make much more sense to maintain continuity. And it is this contrived conflict that sets Bride Wars loose.
The script is lazy and the PG-rating all but neuters the bitch fest. This setup was begging for the claws to be unleashed but the filmmakers play it safe. It can’t get too messy because everything must be made nice and tidy by the conclusion. The acts of sabotage never get too out of hand. This is less a war and more of a scuffle. Bride Wars trades in nothing but stereotypes and stock characters (including the late addition of Liv’s brother who obviously has a decade-long crush on Emma), and I expect that from chick flick fluff, but the movie just misses so many obvious comedic opportunities. The girls have a group of friends that offer no commentary on the situation. One of their friends is unhappily newly married and could offer plenty of sarcastic quips. Liv has her hair dyed blue at a salon and nobody in the movie makes a single joke about the wedding staple of wearing something blue? How is this even possible for a movie about weddings? That’s just a glaring oversight.
Hudson and Hathaway are far better than this material, though Hudson is credited as a producer. Perhaps she can explain why she chose a haircut that makes her head look humongous. Seriously, her head looks gigantic, especially when she stands beside the coltish Hathaway who has quite a cylindrical noggin. Hathaway comes across the better of the two. Hudson has proven adept at goofy comedy but she just comes across as a bully. Kristen Johnston (TV’s Third Rock from the Sun) looks alarmingly thin. Somebody should check up on her.
To dismiss Bride Wars as a chick flick is to miss the point. Women deserve better than this mediocre comedy that showcases women as harpies worshiping marital materialism. The characters are annoying and vapid, the conflict is boneheaded and contrived, the comedy is watered down, and the lead actresses are wasted. Because something is a chick flick does not excuse it for being poorly manufactured. Bride Wars does not reflect well upon anyone involved, from the actors, to the director, to the writers, to the people that got people coffee. The movie isn’t monstrously bad but it is a banal piece of entertainment. Women, men, and all people deserve better no matter the genre classification.
Nate’s Grade: C