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(Just for fun, I thought I'd start this review with two of my least favorite movie review crutches.) There's a point in Bride Wars where I really want to hate it. Pulled from the screener pool simply to please my wife, this chick flick is not poised to please me - my wildest dreams include only hope that ogling Anne Hathaway will A) ease the pain, and B) go unnoticed by said wife. So, as the strains of Natalie Cole's This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) begin to haunt my ears not three minutes into the movie, I commence dipping my poison pen into the old Ebola-tainted inkwell. Visions of angered female readers emailing me telling me I just Don't Understand Women's Movies dance in my head.
Egregiously facile set-ups enrage me. Lifelong best friends Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Hathaway) emerge as ridiculous polar opposites. Liv's the tough-as-nails, wealthy prosecutor; harsh make-up, brutal bangs, tons of attitude. Emma's the poor, dowdy (how's that possible?) teacher with a heart of gold. They've been fetishising the marriage ideal together since they were mere girls, and as they both find themselves engaged, their bitter friends begin popping pills and hitting the Ben & Jerry's like pre-menstrual Medusas. I can't believe I'm watching this. Then - oh no! - their high-powered wedding planner (Candice Bergen) books them both at The Plaza for the same day, dashing their plans to be each other's bridesmaids. Do the claws then come out, even between lifelong buds? Oh baby!
And thank heavens, as wedding planning mania and escalating sabotage schemes steer Bride Wars from sappy, potentially brain-damaging pabulum to ridiculous farce. Healthy doses of outrageous, hyper comedy set pieces nearly bring me to tears (probably due to my skewed sensibilities, but hey, I'll take it). Not surprisingly, Hathaway gets the lion's share of hilarious bits. Emma's pathetic wedding invitation (and the aftermath) blindsides me into gales of laughter. When she crashes Liv's bachelorette party, taking charge of the sexy-bride dance competition, I'm pretty close to heaven - such a combination of raw allure and humor is a real gift.
Even Hudson (looking like she's spent the years between Almost Famous and now riding with the Hell's Angels) quickly breaks through her clichéd character to grab some laughs of her own. And, piercing Bride Wars' shallow veneer, Liv's special relationship with her fiancé, and her growing realization that crushing Emma's dreams (while her own take a beating) isn't the best karmic move, brings some heart to a movie that might eventually wilt under tired tricks and silliness. Finally, a pivotal romantic plot twist comes too late, but gets Bride Wars where it's going - back to the land of cheesy happy endings.
Bride Wars is a smooth machine, with some nice role reversals. The men exist as thin props for the ladies - either bitchy or saintly, but never more than supporting objects. The women, crazy as they are, are self-directed and decisive, and they carry the movie. Bolstering Hudson and Hathaway, Bergen lends some efficient gravity, and Kristen Johnston (3rd Rock From The Sun) eventually snags some serious yuks in her brief turn as Emma's boozing coworker. I thoroughly enjoy Bride Wars, while my sappy wife even sheds a few tears. We both win! (Note to self: rom-coms go much better with beer.) Not terribly deep, but more than I expect, Bride Wars is funny fluff perfect for a low-impact date night.
Our DVD-Rom screener for Bride Wars looks pretty shabby by comparison, but at least the 20th Century Fox 'don't resell our screener' burn-in only appears three times, mitigating damage to viewing enjoyment. Since this is a DVD-Rom screener this assessment is worth little, but for what it is worth, tons of digital grain, aliasing and bad detail levels make this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation a sub-par DVD viewing experience.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio are the available choices. Though this screener is not representative of retail product, the mix seems nicely balanced, with dialog and soundtrack elements avoiding competition, and a hearty dynamic range to enjoy. As a romantic comedy, the movie doesn't appear to sport a terribly active mix, so those of you (like me) using only stereo speakers won't be disappointed.
English, Spanish and French Subtitles are on hand, as well as four Trailers. The remainder of the slight extras include three Deleted Scenes (about four minutes total) that were clearly wisely cut, and a four minute puff piece titled The Perfect White Dress that sings the praises of Vera Wang's wedding gowns. Challenge yourself to count how many times the words 'taste' and 'timeless' are used.
You he-men in the audience, take it from a guy, Bride Wars will not kill you. It's actually pretty funny, and though clichés run rampant, (and a happy ending is as tidy all get-out) it has a heart in the right place. Kate Hudson goes from harsh to huggable as a litigious bride, while Anne Hathaway steals the show as a radiant, noble tramp (at least when she's dancing). With more laughs than you'd expect, (but essentially zero extras) this is a painless way to please your partner on movie night, earning a solid Rent It.