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May 14, 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids -- Four Stars
Update: Not A Chick-Flick, But Yes, The Movie Has Been Deceptively Marketed As Such

Four stars out of four.

Since this movie is a home run, this will be a much shorter review. "Everything works and everything is funny, often hilarious" is the quick take-away.

Another quick take-away is that when your chief source of frustration is that the audience is laughing so much you're missing the tail-ends of exchanges, or when you want the movie to be over because you're a little tired of laughing, well, that's a success.

The trailers for this movie are very deceiving, in several good, or at least not bad ways.

1. The trailers make this look like a genial girl-comedy romantic comedy. Maybe the heroine will trip in front of her Romantic Interest once; ha-ha. Oh and then she'll have some kind of Comic Misadventure after which she has a Realization and gives a Speech.

It's not that kind of movie. It's a comedy-comedy, not a girly romantic comedy. There's a romantic component, of course, but this is a comedy-comedy, full out for laughs.

I am not sure whether, before writing the script, Kirstin Wiig and her partner (also a woman; I forget her name) actually said to each other, "We're going to make a full-out gonzo boy comedy-comedy and if we have to we'll out-raunch them too, just to prove we can do that to." But even if that's not what they said, that's what they wound up doing.

This movie is lot more raunchy than I expected. I don't think it's over-the-top, but I did expect a PG-13 movie. This is not PG-13. This is R.

A lot of comedies lately start with the gross-out part. They decide they need one of those -- "We need something the teenagers will be talking about two weeks after opening weekend!" -- and that material is often as forced and disgusting-for-the-sake-of-disgust as the whole cynical, corporate decision that animated that choice would suggest.

Bridesmaids does have one of those extended toilet-humor sequences -- but it is well prepared (you know it's coming before it's coming, so that it's almost a relief when the horror begins), and then so well-executed (perfectly edited just quickly enough so that you get the funny but it cuts away before you're grossed out) and well-conceived (it does a lot of stuff you weren't expecting, not just the obvious stuff that flows from the basic premise) that I can't call it a cynical move.

Maybe it was cynical in their first conception, but damn if they didn't ultimately turn it into something worthy of the famous Watercooler Buzz.

I won't say what it is; that's what other reviewers are for.

In addition to that sequence, there's just a general level of consistent profanity and funnily-frank sexual talk, and I think there's a little the Medium Is The Message in that, because I do think it is a little funnier just because girls are doing it. But I think it would be funny anyway.

So, as far as rating: R for strong language, simulated (silly) sex, adult themes and situations, and bathroom humor.

If that's a deal-breaker, don't see it; but for my money, the movie generates such good feelings that none of this feels terribly shocking.

2. The trailer is remarkable, looking back, for having the restraint to not give away the movie's funniest stuff. One of the funniest lines in here (in a truly Epic Fear-of-Flying Freakout) could have been in the trailer, as it's not dirty or profane at all, just hysterical, but they saved you a little something-something for the actual movie.

Gee, that's a novel idea.

If you thought the trailer was funny but worried "Oh well there are all the jokes, nothing left," nope. Plenty, plenty left.

3. The trailer is also deceptive in suggesting that an event in the movie will be the main focus of the film. Sorry to be vague; I don't like spoiling stuff. The movie takes an unexpected and appreciated left-turn on that -- I like when movies sometimes surprise you and don't just do the obvious.

On the downside, I was looking forward to that event, no matter how obvious and by-the-numbers it was. Ah well. They make up for it.

As for flaws, well, not many. Kristin Wiig does not behave maliciously in the movie at all; in only one sequence is she selfish, and it's not really malice at work -- she's having what in a serious movie would be termed a nervous breakdown. But this is a comedy, so we just call it "zany freakout."

But the point is, she is a walking disaster area. Everything she tries to do for her friend's wedding, she screws up, horribly, indelibly.

But at the end, there's just a brief scene (happily brief) where Everything Is Now Okay Because We The Filmmakers Said So. I don't know if I buy that; in many of these Social Catastrophe movies, there comes a point at which, even though we know as an audience the hero/heroine meant no harm, we also understand that in real life, their various ruinations would destroy their relationships beyond the point of plausible repair.

For example, in Meet the Parents -- anyone really believe that Robert DeNiro would really all of a sudden accept Ben Stiller as a son-and-law?

But that's a typical problem, and besides, it tends to point out that the movie has really, really delivered on the Social Catastrophe element before the "We're all friends again" scene. Besides, we want a happy ending, and you've got to wrap this up at some point, so -- who cares, is what I'm saying.

Kristin Wiig's character is in a very low state at the beginning of the movie, and goes progressively lower throughout it. She's flat-broke, as her dream business of a cake shop has gone bankrupt, and she lost her boyfriend, who split on her when business went bad. Add to that the stress of her best friend becoming successful, and engaged, well before Wiig will ever be, and her best friend apparently preferring her own new best friend, and, well, the poor girl goes a little batty and acts increasingly erratically.

Now, the whole movie they were setting up a Recovery Moment when she'd put everything in her life right. I think they probably filmed this... and then cut it out, figuring it was too forced, and decided, oh, let's be more realistic: Not everything needs to be All Better Now at film's end.

If so, that's probably a good choice, but I did leave the film wondering, "Wait, 90% of her life is still in the crapper, so where's my super-happy-ending-montage?"

Is that a flaw? Barely, I guess.

The last thing isn't really a flaw at all, just further evidence that the movie's working wonderfully. They develop eight characters very well -- Wiig's heel of a booty-call non-boyfriend (John Hamm, very good), her new possible flame (a wonderfully played cop), and four of the six bridesmaids.

Two of the six have much less screentime and no real character arc, and that's too bad, because they're both funny women. (One is the blonde from Reno 911, the other is the unspeakably cute and daffy Erin from The Office.)

But they just couldn't give everyone a full story; the movie's packed as it is. So I guess it's just a sign that it's a good movie when one criticism is "I wanted more from the decidedly secondary characters."

Really good movie. I hate giving out four stars but I can't think of anything to improve on, and it was the funniest movie I've seen since Superbad (and I think before that, really).

Will be huge, by the way. The ticket-buying audience is apparently primed for a good comedy; the theater I saw it in was packed at 2 pm in the afternoon. So you might want to look at a midweek showing.

Some really dicey toilet and sex material, but really done with a lot of good spirit and heart. Just a great time.

And I'm already wanting it be released on DVD so I can hear those lines I missed the first time.

Oh, I have to tip a bias: I love Kristin Wiig so I'm predisposed to liking this. In addition, though, my expectations were very middling -- as I said, I expected a cute-and-sorta-funny girl movie.

So, I had low expectations, which were, obviously, greatly exceeded. Since I'm giving it a rave (and so are most of the critics), I don't know if you'll have that advantage.

Ah: It won't be huge -- it only made $7 million last night, second behind Thor, which is in its second weekend.

The theater I was in had it only one screen -- that would explain why it was so packed.

So it won't be huge, but since, I guess, it is on a limited number of screens but people are seeing it, expect some crowded houses.

The Trailer: Since some never heard of this movie, here's the trailer.

Now that I see it, I see the movie was completely misrepresented as a typical not-really-funny girly romantic-comedy. And I figure they sold it that way because they figure boys won't see it, so sell it to girl.

But the thing is, this really is a Boy's Comedy. It just happens to be written by and acted by girls. The more I think about it, the more I do think this is Kristin Wiig showing off for all the funny male comics she knows -- "See, girls can do that too."

The trailer is deceptive, but in a good way. I think, at least. Then again, some women might go in expecting a semi-comedy, but I think they'll be laughing too, even if they were tricked into thinking the movie is just another crappy Reese Witherspoon type movie.

The other thing is that not only do they not give away the best jokes in the trailer, they actually... show things in the trailer that aren't even in the movie. That is -- they cut out their weak stuff and... sold the movie with it.

Of course they shoot stuff that winds up being cut; and sometimes that cut material is a major part of the trailer.

What About Bob's? commercial featured the exchange "No one's ever hated me enough to kill me before"/"How do you know?," which wasn't in the movie.

But here, like three things are in the trailer that got cut.

All I can say what's in the movie is better.

This trailer weirdly sells the movie as a much lesser movie. I guess they just think boys can't laugh at funny girls.

Maybe that's true. Maybe there will wind up being a boy-boycott of the movie.

But seriously, it's only a "girl" movie in the sense that women are so central to it. This is an extremely funny movie.

This isn't a chick-flick, this is a boy-flick (or, really, an "anyone who loves comedy" flick). It is just being sold as a chick-flick, I guess because there's not really a prior template for the genre of Gonzo Comedy Featuring/Written by Women.

(Although, just as a bit of perspective -- you know who wrote Slap Shot? I forget the name myself, but it was, in fact, a woman.)

Kurt Loder: It's Not A Chick-Flick. See, See, I'm telling you.

I wouldn't read that because he starts revealing gag lines early and focuses mainly on the fact that the movie is vulgar to demonstrate it's not a chick-flick.

I think that is the wrong way to look at it. What makes it not a chick flick is not its vulgarity per se, but that its genre is straight-up comedy, and it's funny, rather than ha-ha cutesy.

Comparison to other Critics' Ratings: It looks like I'm giving the movie 4 stars whereas most other critics are giving it three and a half (out of four), or for those on a five star scale, four stars or four and a half.

I thought, initially, to give it three and a half. But I was only deducting that half-star because it didn't seem like a pure comedy should get a high rating.

But then I thought, What Bullshit. Dying is easy, comedy is hard. And if the movie is outstanding for its type, and if it succeeds (and more) at every goal it sets for itself, and if its goal is worthy, then why should I just play the game of A Comedy Can't Get Four Stars Because We All Know Only Staid Dramas Are Worthy Of That?

Eh, four stars. I'll stand by that. Giving it less than that would imply I see room for improvement, and I don't. I just found out it was two hours long (2:05 with credits), but I didn't feel that. I figured it was 100 minutes. Maybe... ten minutes shorter? But given that I actually wanted more, not less... eh, I take it back. It's a long comedy but that's because they have so much good material it's a shame to cut any of it out.

(I guess this explains the missing "Gets Her Life In Perfect Order" montage that I'm guessing was actually filmed, but cut for time.)

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posted by Ace at 05:40 PM

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