Bride Wars (United States, 2009)

A movie review by James Berardinelli
Bride Wars Poster

This movie gave me a headache. Okay, maybe that's an unfair charge to lay at its feet but the fact is that when I walked into the theater, I was fine and when I walked out I had a throbbing pain between my temples. And Bride Wars is the kind of motion picture to inspire such a reaction. It represents a missed opportunity on every level. As a black comedy, it fails. As a satire of the bloated wedding industry, it fails. As a drama about friendship triumphing over all, it fails. As an affirmation that Anne Hathaway's wonderful performance in Rachel Getting Married may mark a new career direction, it fails. About the only area in which it succeeds is in proving that this much estrogen on display guarantees a lack of balls.

Movies like Bride Wars need to have teeth in order to work. The sharper and nastier the teeth, the better. Unfortunately, director Gary Winick and his screenwriters rip them out as soon as they begin to develop and leave behind bleeding, ulcerated gums. War of the Roses is a perfect example of the kind of no-prisoners approach that blackly comedic material of this nature demands. When it's all over, there needs to be carnage. War of the Roses wasn't funny in the traditional sense of the word, but it was biting and effective and I have never forgotten it. Bride Wars isn't funny either, but it is limp and ineffective and I probably will forget about it as soon as I finish writing this review (although it will have to be re-examined at the end of the year for possible inclusion on the Worst 10 list).

Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) have been best friends since grade school. They even lived together for a while. They also share the same dream of being married at the Plaza in June. This fantasy is more important to them than all other considerations including their friendship and whether they're actually marrying the right guys. And, when a famous wedding planner (Candice Bergen) screws up the dates and schedules their ceremonies and receptions at the same time with no possibility of re-scheduling (since the Plaza is conveniently booked for the next three years), Liv and Emma get into an argument about which one of them is going to give up her dream and change the venue. When both remain stubborn, a war begins, with skirmishes that include a false pregnancy rumor, an orange-tinted spray-on tan, blue hair, and other assorted cattiness.

The film, wanting to be seen as more than a comedy, sets up trite little character arcs for the two protagonists. Liv is set up as the domineering one - a woman so sure of herself that everyone around her is intimidated by her. As the movie progresses, she learns to let go and is even shown to shed a tear. Emma, on the other hand, is the nice one. She's sweet and demure but decides that this is the time to stop acting like a human doormat and show some spine.

The one-liners tossed out during the heat of battle are mild enough to keep the film in PG territory, which means they're so neutered as to be uninteresting. There are a few attempts at physical comedy, none of which come close enough to funny as to endanger an outbreak of laughter. The movie has been assembled with a cynical eye toward the Sex and the City crowd: female friendship, weddings, fashion, and a blatant lack of concern about real-life issues like bankrolling this sort of ceremony. It would help if there was a worthwhile story buried beneath all of this surface ornamentation, but that's probably asking for too much. And the ending isn't just a cop-out, it's a cheat and a cop-out. It's hard to imagine that anyone could be satisfied by the way Bride Wars concludes.

Based on mounting evidence, one has to wonder whether Rachel Getting Married represents Anne Hathaway's only three-dimensional performance. She's not very good here and her lack of depth is expertly matched by Kate Hudson, who is in full bitch mode for most of the running time. We keep expecting Candice Bergen to do something witty but she never tries. And the guys are boring and largely interchangeable. There are three of them, which signals that maybe one of the brides is not with the correct groom. Some might consider that a spoiler but it's telegraphed early enough in the story that only those making frequent trips to the lavatory or snack bar (both good excuses to shorten the amount of time spent actually watching the movie) will be unaware of what's going on. In short, Bride Wars is a typical January movie: worth ignoring in favor of staying home and watching network TV reruns. There's more cheer to be gained from staring outside at a bleak and desolate winterscape in the twilight of a shortened day than paying good money to endure this example of cinematic offal.

Bride Wars (United States, 2009)

Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2009-01-09
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1