January 16, 2008

27 Dresses

You mean I got dressed-up for
the Golden Globes for nothing?

Grade: C
Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman, Judy Greer, and Edward Burns
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Whereas leading men get to star in cinematic comedies about crashing weddings, actresses get pigeonholed into would-be laughers about the inherent inadequacy of women either incapable or unwilling to amble down the aisle. Remember (if you dare) Good Luck Chuck, in which a bevy of hard-luck singles are willing to sleep with a loathsome lothario like Dane Cook just on the off-chance it will help them score a husband…from the NEXT guy they meet.

Now, there is 27 Dresses, in which a perpetual bridesmaid’s younger, blonder sister, Tess (Malin Akerman, last seen debasing theaters in The Heartbreak Kid), lectures her single sibling, Jane (Katherine Heigl), on the need to “live your own life” after spending an entire movie ordering Jane around like a drill sergeant while she plans Tess’ wedding. The translation of Tess' directive - find a guy and get hitched...pronto.

The only nuptial choices seemingly available to Jane are her boss George (Edward Burns) – whom Jane spends years pinning for before he hooks up and gets engaged to Tess – and Kevin Doyle (James Marsden), a wedding-hating commitments writer for a New York City weekly who not only stalks Jane but also pumps her for amusing anecdotes and unguarded pics he can surreptitiously incorporate into a feature article about her serial spinsterhood. Ain’t love grand?

What is most stunning is that this anti-feminist rubbish is penned by The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna. Less surprising is that this is the sophomore directorial effort by choreographer Anne Fletcher on the heels of her debut debacle, Step Up. At least Marsden gets to graduate to the status of leading love interest after littering his filmography with third-wheel roles – the X-Men series; Superman Returns; Enchanted; The Notebook. It is Heigl who suffers most, taking a misstep backwards in the midst of her recent career ascendancy. Still, flashes of Heigl’s burgeoning talent occasionally flare up, like Jane’s silent, expressive agony when spies George and Tess first make eye contact and a beeline for each other across a crowded nightclub.

Unfortunately, these brief respites are offset by an odious script and the sheer duplicity of nearly every character, including Jane, who chastises Kevin’s lack of ethics mere moments before she presents a photo slide show designed to break-up George and Tess in the middle of their wedding’s eve party. And, when Heigl’s character repeatedly proclaims “I never do this” after getting drunk in a honky-tonk and hooking-up with Kevin, she apparently cannot remember as far back as last year to the same scenario in Knocked Up. Heigl may not always require Judd Apatow to buttress her stardom, but she needs films better than this twaddle.

Neil Morris

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