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Bride Wars

Fox // PG // April 28, 2009
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted April 30, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The problem is not that they are shallow, and the problem is not that they are mean, and the problem is not that they allow their own selfishness to rule their nasty behavior. In a well-crafted black comedy, these would be plusses.

But "Bride Wars" is not a black comedy, nor is it well-crafted. Or clever. Or enjoyable. It does manage to be quite shrill and rather generic, though, with predictable jokes and a failed sense of warmth that aims to gets its rude characters off the hook before the closing credits. It's a movie that mistakenly believes that we should want to like these people. It can't comprehend that it might be more fun to hate them to the end.

We end up hating them anyway, of course. And why not? Even before our two heroines begin their scheming and bitching, they're superficial twits you wouldn't want to have around. Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) have shared only one dream in life since childhood: to enjoy a June wedding at the Plaza. I guess they also grew up with vague notions about careers and whatnot, but all their childhood fantasies and adult dreams center on the Plaza in June; they even openly ridicule their friends' lush weddings simply for not being that place, that time.

Our story opens with both of them finding themselves newly engaged at the same time. Emma seems happier to be engaged in general than to be engaged to anyone in particular, and Liv turns out to be the sort of harpy who'd barge into her boyfriend's workplace and demand an overdue proposal (the end result of that tiresome sitcom plot point about the discovery of a hidden ring and a proposal that doesn't arrive when expected). But now they're both headed for the altar, and through the magic of expert wedding planner Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), they've both pegged down the Plaza in June.

Except! A mix-up leaves the two brides-to-be fighting over the same June date. Roger Ebert once coined the phrase "Idiot Plot" in describing the kind of story that could be resolved if only the characters stopped being morons; "Bride Wars" spins off of this idea to give us the Jerk Plot, with a story that would easily be resolved if only the characters would stop being so hideous. Neither Liv nor Emma are willing to move their date, nor would they dare do a double wedding (the option that would make the most sense for what we're told about these best of best friends), nor will either do anything rational that might clear this whole thing up in ten seconds.

It's all a flimsy set-up for a series of lame "revenge" scenes, as the women begin to sabotage each other's nuptials. And this is where the film truly falls apart: the screenplay (from June Diane Raphael and "SNL" star Casey Wilson, reworking a story by Greg DePaul) goes for the easiest, dumbest, least inventive schemes. Liv ruins Emma's fake tan, turning her orange, har har! Emma ruins Liv's dye job, turning her hair blue, ho ho! Liv plots to run a DVD of a drunken Emma during the wedding, hee hee! Emma tricks Liv into overeating, making her just a hair too pudgy to fit in her Vera Wang dress, ha ha! When both wind up at the same strip joint for their bachelorette parties, they engage in a slutty pole dance-off, hey hey!

These are women with seemingly limitless income (both are paying for a Plaza wedding out of their own pockets; did I mention Emma affords this just by saving up on her middle school teacher salary?), yet they have fairly limited imaginations. As does the script. That's all you got, ladies? Blue hair and bad tans?

Director Gary Winick ("Charlotte's Web," "13 Going on 30") aggravates the problem with a generic style punctuated by terrible decisions; one scene, a montage of Emma and her fiancé doing a "kooky" dance workout, is "made funny" by speeding up the film. These are the sort of bold ideas the film presents. Winick works on chick-flick autopilot here (as do its stars), assuming shots of Kate Hudson with blue hair would earn giant laughs on their own, or all that dialogue about Vera Wang wedding gowns would be enough to win over the female viewers.

By the time we reach the third act, the screenplay sidesteps any of the fifteen or so possible endings in order to give us the one copout that fails to satisfy on any conceivable level. The film is unwilling to hate - or even merely disapprove of - these women, despite all the pettiness, so at the last minute it sets out to make a villain out of a secondary character instead, allowing our leads to find happiness where they least deserve it. "Bride Wars" is a comedy that needs to be nasty in order to work, yet it's so soft and light that it merely annoys, repeatedly, all the way down the aisle.


Video & Audio

Fox has provided DVD Talk with a watermarked screener, and not a final retail version. No judgment can be made on transfer quality based on the DVD-R sent to us; if a final shelf copy arrives, I'll update this review accordingly. Until then, I'll merely state that the film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1, along with Spanish and French 5.1 dubs and optional English and Spanish subtitles.


Three deleted scenes (3:47 total; 1.85:1 anamorphic) include a terrible alternate opening in which an embarrassed-looking Christian Finnegan interviews Bergen about being a wedding planner. The other scenes involve an unused revenge scheme where Emma ruins Liv's wedding dress.

Continuing the movie's brazen Vera Wang-as-wedding porn brand of product placement, "The Perfect White Dress" (4:38; 1.85:1) is a commercial for Vera Wang's overpriced clothing disguised as a featurette about how awesome Vera Wang wedding gowns are. (The filmmakers are absent, replaced by fashion experts. In fact, the cast and crew have wisely ducked out of the extras entirely.) Most audacious claim: Vera Wang's such an awesome designer, her clothes will still be the height of fashion decades from now!

A batch of previews for other Fox titles rounds out the set. A separate set of previews plays as the disc loads.

Final Thoughts

Utterly obnoxious all the way through, "Bride Wars" refuses to take the slightest risks and winds up as little more than a tiresome, humorless bitchfest. Skip It.
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