Saturday, February 02, 2008

Movie Review: 27 Dresses

Note: Allow me to recommend this thoughtful general column on romantic comedies, which I strongly agree with. I wrote a very similar article for this blog (here) in which basically I argue that people don't who don't enjoy romantic comedies don't really want to or know how to enjoy them. It's one of the few articles I've written for this blog that I'm actually proud of. But this guy makes several points that I was trying to make in my article and does it more briefly and articulately than I did. (And makes a lot of points that I didn't make at all).

The Movie: 27 Dresses
Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Judy Greer, Edward Burns, Malin Akerman

This review contains spoilers, but there's not really anything to spoil, so...

Brief Plot Summary: Jane (Katherine Heigl), a woman who has been a bridesmaid in 27 different weddings, is the type of doormat-ish woman who will do anything to please people. She is in love with her boss, George (Edward Burns), who she serves as an assistant to. Unfortunately her sister Tess (Malin Akerman) meets and falls in love with George, and after a brief courtship they are engaged to be married, with Jane of course serving as the maid of honor. In the meantime, Jane has met Kevin Doyle (James Marsden), who writes a wedding column in the newspaper which she adores. Jane is initially put off by his cynical worldview and his creepy, stalkerish behavior. Throughout the course of several wacky happenings, they manage to fall in love. Also, Kevin is writing an article about her for the newspaper, unbeknownst to her. And all the while she is miserable and planning her sister's wedding to the man she secretly loves!

Commentary: 27 Dresses fits in the category of romantic comedies which are attempting to be cute and very romantic (e.g. Music and Lyrics), rather than romantic comedies which are basically comedy movies with a love story (e.g. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). Since this is one of my favorite types of movies (if not my favorite type of movie outright), I was very much looking forward to it. And you know what, it was extremely cute. And Katherine Heigl was a very good lead and had good chemistry with James Marsden. I also really enjoyed the set-up with Katherine being the perpetual bridesmaid (unrealistic though it may be that she was a bridesmaid 27 times). Further, there were several excellent scenes and lines in the movie (I particularly enjoyed the scene where Jane tried on all her bridesmaid dresses for Kevin). Unfortunately, though, I had several problems with the movie:

The movie takes a very long time to get going. It's almost halfway through the movie before Jane and Kevin start to warm to each other. The rest of the movie is spent on set up that is partially necessary but it also partially overkill. I get that she's a doormat and that she resents her sister and that she loves her boss well before they give up on hammering those points home. Unfortunately, the end result of this is that the ending is very rushed. Her reconciliation with her sister was unbelievably pat and silly ("You ruined my life, but it's OK, for really no reason whatsoever.") As much as I love romcoms, it perpetually annoys me that they fail to acknowledge that bad choices and irrational actions have real and long-lasting consequences. The scene when she quits her job and realizes her boss takes her for granted could have and should have been very satisfying too, but it just goes by too fast and without believable prompting.

One thing that actually isn't a casualty of the rushed nature of the ending is the reconciliation scene between her and Kevin. They spent plenty of time on this, but it still rang hollow to me, and my guess is that it's because they were together onscreen too little throughout the rest of the movie. The pacing of the building romance, perfect in say Notting Hill or Just Like Heaven, was totally off here. It stuttered and jerked around and suddenly they are in love, just like that. They also could have done better than the scene at the boat wedding, which was too unrealistic, even for a movie like this.

I hate to even bring this up, but I did feel the movie was a little too familiar. I can make do with a lot of cliched scenes in a romantic comedy, but the plot to this movie was almost a direct ripoff of You've Got Mail, not to mention the obvious similarity to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Also, Edward Burns was terrible in this movie, and did not make me believe either Jane's crush on him or his romance with Tess.

I think the real problem with this movie is that it's overstuffed. The triple redemption plot with Jane, trying to connect with her sister, realizing that her boss takes her for granted and she needs to move on with her crush, and falling in love with Kevin is too much for the movie to handle. All three are related and have related themes/interconnect in the plot, but if I was controlling the movie I would take out the boss/work element entirely and just focus on the fact that her sister is marrying the guy she loves and that she's falling in love with Kevin at the same time. The boss element distracts and takes time away that I feel would have been better spent elsewhere.

I really don't want to sound too negative here, because I did enjoy the movie and I think it's worth watching. The scenes where Katherine and James are on screen together and tolerating each other sparkle. Judy Greer is very funny as Katherine Heigl's best friend. The costuming on the bridesmaid dresses was often extremely amusing. Ultimately, the movie is very cute and pleasant, and I don't mean that as an insult at all. (In fact, "cute" is one of the highest compliments I give to a movie.)

Final Grade/Comments: The reason that I've reviewed hardly any romantic comedies in this blog is because most of it comes down to: Did the love story grab me or not. It should be clear from the above that the love story never really grabbed me in the way that it does in the best romcoms. Even though this is a very personal thing, and I'm sure the love story really kicked butt to some people, I hope I've done a good job above explaining WHY the love story didn't hit me as much it could have. This movie disappointed me, but only to the extent that I thought it would be an outstanding romantic comedy and it was merely an above average one. It's going for cute and romantic, and it nails the cute but whiffs on the romantic. My brain is saying 6/10, but my heart says it was cute enough to earn an extra point, so 7/10. But be warned, this is one only for real romantic comedy fans and cute movie junkies, like myself.

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