Reviewed by: David Graham

A venerable stalwart of American comedy TV, Paul 'Freaks And Geeks' Feig makes his big-screen directorial debut with a distinctly female-centric take on the Judd Apatow blueprint. Co-written by and starring previous scene-stealer par excellence Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids is basically My Best Friend's Wedding without even a token gay male. This is all about the ladies, or rather, it's all about proving the ladies aren't that different from the guys after all. If you've seen Superbad or The 40 Year Old Virgin, just reverse the characters' genders and you'll know what you're in for - the good as well as the bad.

Wiig's Annie is the typical modern woman: at war with her biological clock, unsatisfied with her career, and settling for detached sex in place of a relationship. Her best friend Lillian's engagement is met with a nauseous mix of joy, envy and dread, especially since Annie has been chosen as maid of honour. Her organisation of events is challenged by Lillian's new friend Helen, whose well-to-do approach leaves our heroine trailing by the wayside. As Annie's personal life grows increasingly complicated, the pressure mounts for her to hang on to her lifelong friend and make her wedding as memorable as possible - hopefully for the right reasons.

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Bridesmaids is every bit as polished and appealing as its predecessors, with an ensemble that's just as extensive and enjoyable as those from which current comedy superstars like Steve Carell and Tina Fey have progressed. Most of the supporting players are given seriously short shrift though, especially Wendi Mclendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper as interchangeable back-up bridesmaids - they both do well with what they're given, but for all that their characters could have been combined into one role. In a bizarrely British twist, Chris O'Dowd is charming if disconcertingly similar to Seth Rogen in the romantic lead, but he seems a little out of place with his wavering accent, and you wonder why they even bothered hiring Matt Lucas, who dials in a particularly unfunny bit-part.

Most conflicting is Melissa McCarthy as Megan; her burly intensity is put to excellent use for some deft physical comedy, while her deliciously deadpan delivery of some hilariously psychotic dialogue will surely see her ascend to bigger roles in the near future. However, her character is so outlandishly grotesque that it's impossible to swallow her being a member of such an upwardly mobile group of ladies. If her behavior was spread out a bit more between the others (aside from their show-stopping midway bout of bowel bother), we might have a more rounded bunch, but Feig's obviously desperate for someone to fill the Zach Galifianakis mold, slipping up a little by making her an overweight social outcast so brazenly ignorant of her own inappropriateness that she fails to generate sympathy along with the sniggers. Her in-flight molestation of a neighbor gets plenty of awkward laughs - we've all been in his place - but borders on creepy through her utter lack of self-awareness. At least The Hangover's Alan seemed dimly aware of his own obnoxiousness, balancing the gross-out antics with a sense of self-deprecation.

As if not to be outdone, Wiig gifts herself a riotous air-bourne meltdown, but from then on Annie slips further into the sort of selfish destruction that makes her hard to root for. Like a younger Jane Lynch, she's immediately likable, but her character's so hell-bent on alienating those who care about her - and they in turn so stubbornly avoid making her face her own idiocy - that we as an audience end up drifting away from her cause as well. Maya Rudolph doesn't get the chance to make much of an impression as Lillian, but her eventual exasperation is well-etched, and she wins you over to her side with a heartfelt rant at her supposed best friend's complete lack of perspective. Rose Byrne again shows that she's got a great comic gift, making Wiig's rival a delightfully squirm-inducing figure of affectation, but she also manages to invest her with some semblance of humanity. Her rug-pulling one-up-man-ship may be sickening in the extreme, but you believe that at least part of this is due to her own neuroses and self-worth issues. As such it's hard to really hope she falls flat on her face, so it's probably to the film's credit that such a cheap and cruel resolution is avoided, even though it seems to be leading us in that direction.

The main problem with Bridesmaids is one that blights every single Apatow production - excessive length. Maybe it's out of respect for the material, or maybe they're trying to offer value for money, but Bridesmaids is every bit as exhaustingly bloated as its stable-mates. Early scenes of the girls' banter seem a little forced but are undeniably funny and filthy, but from about halfway through all the good lines have dried up and the film tries too hard to work as a drama. The final stretch in particular becomes a bit of a drag; by the time the seemingly-obligatory musical number has rolled around, you'll be crying for the credits, when you should be crying with laughter.

For all that though, it is refreshing to see a film like this stick to its guns by more or less shunning the male characters who usually hog the limelight with this kind of schtick. Bridesmaids will, perhaps predictably, play especially well to female crowds, who will no doubt see plenty they recognize in its characters and the embarrassing situations they create for themselves. But it's also a film with enough genuine heart and hilarity to appeal to everyone, as long as they can handle its unwieldy running time.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2011
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Despite her best attempts to be a model member of the bridal party, an unlucky-in-love singleton finds herself rapidly becoming the ’maid of dishonour’.
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Read more Bridesmaids reviews:

Maria Realf ****

Director: Paul Feig

Writer: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph, Tom Yi, Elaine Kao, Michael Hitchcock, Kali Hawk, Joe Nunez, Rebel Wilson, Matt Lucas, Jill Clayburgh, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Greg Tuculescu, Steve Bannos

Year: 2011

Runtime: 125 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


SSFF 2012

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