On one hand, Bridesmaids arrives as a breath of fresh air to anyone pained by the never-ending onslaught of insultingly, degradingly insipid Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl comedies (gosh, they even have the same initials). The marketers at Universal have been quick to highlight the element that sets Bridesmaids apart from those films: a hard-R comic sensibilitity that the studio is clearly hoping will entice a few more boyfriends and broskis into the theater. Maybe it will work (and, in some ways, it should -- this seems like a shoo-in to be the crowd-pleasing comedy of the summer), but the bigger triumph is that Bridesmaids slyly takes the rules and plays by them.
At first, the plot sounds like grist for the "KH" mill: When Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged, she asks her best friend Annie (Kristen Wiig) to be her maid of honor. However, as the movie progresses, the film leverages that friendship into a surprisingly poignant story about two people coming to terms with changes in each others' lives. At the same time, screenwriters Wiig and Annie Mumolo cleverly lay in standard romantic comedy groundwork, giving Annie a douchey prick (Jon Hamm) and a friendly cop (Chris O'Dowd) to choose from. With an emotionally satisfying framework established, Wiig and company take pointers from the Judd Apatow school of comedy and squeeze sharp one-liners into every remaining second of the film's two-hour-plus runtime.
Comedically, Bridesmaids' strongest suit is a talented cast of improvisational actors further aided by their familiarity with one another. Wiig and Maya Rudolph are obviously former "Saturday Night Live" castmates (something that comes in handy when playing best friends), but Twitter informs me that no less than thirteen members of the Groundlings appear in the film, with other connections from Upright Citizen's Brigade, and even non-troupes like "The Office" scattered throughout the film. Perhaps the strongest connection is entirely behind the scenes: this is director Paul Feig and producer Apatow's first collaboration since they created "Freaks and Geeks." From top to bottom, everyone involved with the film trusts one another, and it shows.
Wiig handles starring duties with ease. Obvious show-stoppers include Annie being drunk on an airplane, and an extended sequence where she tries to get O'Dowd's attention by littering and speeding, but she also makes Annie likable without completely losing all of the prickliness that made her Knocked Up and Ghost Town characters funny. Comedies often refuse to let the realistic reaction play out, but Annie gets not one but two scenes (at a party and at her workplace) where she can't help herself. Still, of all the actors, the one that will (righteously) garner the most attention is probably Melissa McCarthy. Fight-happy, sexually aggressive, and completely free of social etiquette, McCarthy takes the character of Megan and skillfully plays right into the absurdity of already absurd scenes, which makes it all the more impressive when she single-handedly gives the movie a place to pivot on, confronting Annie at a crucial moment that ought to be a college course on juggling the serious with the absurd.
The label of "chick flick" is already discriminatory, but as Hollywood churns out increasingly terrible product, it's become saddled with an even worse reputation, indicating movies that require and even encourage the audience to turn their brains off to enjoy ("I cooked this meal for you, but it isn't very good -- just turn your tastebuds off and enjoy!"). So, while I agree with Lindy West that nobody would ever tout the presence of "smart, funny men" on a poster, one of the quotes she references -- "Chick flicks don't have to suck!" -- is on the money. Bridesmaids is posited as something different, but it's not, really: just a clever, very funny movie that hits the same expected, crowd-pleasing beats without insulting the intelligence of audience members of either gender.
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