May 13, 2011


Divine Secrets of the Apatow Sisterhood

Grade: C +

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jon Hamm, and Chris O’Dowd

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hr. 5 min.

In anticipation of the rush to anoint Kristin Wiig the funniest female Saturday Night Live alum since Tina Fey, it might be instructive to contrast Fey’s Liz Lemon in 30 Rock to Wigg’s madcap maid of honor in Bridesmaids. Admittedly a dorky child of the 1980s, it always seems Lemon’s marked neuroses are the put-upon product of a career woman stubbornly living sexless in the city, an executive competing in a male-dominated industry and coping with the prejudices heaped upon female who goes without a spouse or child past a particular age. Her obstinate independence is both her strength and comedic curse.

In Bridesmaids, on the other hand, Wiig’s Annie shuttered her Milwaukee bakery when she could not handle the pressure and is locked in a pointless relationship with a vain, wealth playboy (Jon Hamm) who doesn’t even bother to unlock his front gate of his mansion after he unceremoniously kicks her out following a night of awkward coitus.

Broke and lovelorn, all Annie apparently has left in life is her longstanding friendship with bride-to-be Lillian (Maya Rudolph). So, when Lillian’s newest BFF, the rich and pretty Helen (Rose Byrne), begins to usurp Annie’s position as maid of honor, Annie’s eccentricities explode into full-blown personality disorder.

Annie and Helen first clash by trying to one-up each other’s toasts at an engagement party. It’s a scene that rambles well past its amusing set-up, like many in Bridemaids that Wiig conducts as if they were one of her interminable Gilly or Penelope SNL sketches.

Directed by Freaks and Geeks’ Peter Feig and operating under the imprimatur of producer Judd Apatow, Bridesmaids is essentially an estrogen-filled knockoff of The Hangover, minus the roofie-induced amnesia. A bachelorette party in Vegas is canceled after Annie’s midair drunkenness gets her kicked off the plane; a group meal at a local Brazilian dive leads to an attack of proverbial scatology.

The bridesmaids themselves are an assemblage of Hollywood archetypes: the protagonist and her best friend of color, the pretty rich girl, Megan, the brassy fat chick (Melissa McCarthy, who walks away with her every scene), the desperate housewife (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and the mousey innocent (The Office’s Ellie Kemper).

There’s also what barely passes for a love interest between Annie and Nathan (Chris O’Dowd), a state trooper who retains his Irish accent and a taste for Annie’s dormant culinary skills. But Nathan’s fixation, like every other promising subplot –hints at Helen’s volatile relationship with her preteen stepchildren; Megan’s furtive fortune – gets abandoned on the way the finale of yet another wedding comedy.

There are plenty of guilty guffaws to go around throughout Bridemaids. While Wiig’s performance in her headliner debut is fearless and endearing in its self-deprecation, the scattershot approach to Wiig’s writing insures that every 15 minutes of aimlessly will yield one minute of hilarity. But, for those who contend that the film strikes a blow for feminism, all it really proves is that women can tell poop jokes, too.

Neil Morris

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