Made of Honor (United States/United Kingdom, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Romantic comedies sell fantasy. Ultimately, that's their reason for being - to make even the most cynical heart crave true love. Some romantic comedies, this one included, fail because of an inability to convince the audience that the protagonists deserve to live happily ever after. There's a simple romantic comedy litmus test. Ask this question: By the time the moment of decision arrives, are we rooting for these two to be together? Is their union, inevitable though it may be in a movie world where formula is valued over all else, the only path to a satisfying ending? Sadly, for Made of Honor, with its drawn-out, poorly developed love affair and paper thin characters, the answer is no. We expect the two leads to end up together - not because they inspire us to quote sonnets but because that's how we have been conditioned. I like it when a movie seduces me; this one doesn't.

The point of Made of Honor seems to be to get a product into theaters that can capitalize on Patrick Dempsey's transformation from his teenage McWeenie to his adult McDreamy. However, having gotten the actor, the filmmakers apparently didn't feel it necessary to develop a movie that worked on any level. And, while the term "chemistry" is overused, it's a valid descriptor for the spark of interaction that must be present between two characters whenever a relationship (whether platonic or romantic) occurs. There's little between Dempsey and his co-star, Michelle Monaghan, although one senses that, based on the opening "meet cute" scene, there could have been had the screenplay allowed these two to spend some quiet time together without the annoying secondary characters constantly polluting the mix.

The film opens with the meeting between Tom (Dempsey) and Hannah (Monaghan) during his senior year at college. Ten years later, they're best friends but their relationship is strictly platonic. In fact, Hannah may be the only woman in New York City with whom Tom has not slept. He has sex with a different woman almost every night (and never the same one twice in any week - that's one of many rules he lives by), then regales Hannah with stories of his conquests. He then reveals to his generic male posse that he has the perfect life: variety in the bedroom and companionship with Hannah in other areas of his life. The stability of his existence is shaken, however, when she goes on a six-week business trip to Scotland. While she's there, he realizes his feelings are more than friendly and vows to tell her upon her return. Unfortunately for him, when she shows up in New York, she has a bloke (Kevin McKidd) in tow. This man, who apparently has so few flaws that Superman would be envious, is named Colin and is her fiancé. She surprises Tom by asking that he be her "Maid" of Honor. Since he has a better chance to destroy the wedding from the inside than from a distant position, he agrees.

Made of Honor's story is not dissimilar to the one told in My Best Friend's Wedding. Comparing the films is useful in that it shows how frightened Hollywood has recently become by a romance that doesn't fit into a nice, tidy package. Made of Honor establishes in the first scene who will end up together in the last scene. Everything that comes in between is pointless filler. Worse, it's not even interesting filler. For all the scenes that Hannah and Tom share together, there's very little that allows us to see them as more than actors sharing the same shot. Those critical "falling in love" moments are too few and far between for the audience to develop a heartfelt interest in them becoming a couple.

It might help if Tom was a bit less of a self-centered jerk. He drives like an ass, uses women like the condoms he probably buys by the crate, and believes Hannah should be available whenever he needs an ear or a shoulder. (Nitpick alert… There's a scene in which Tom places a phone call to Hannah while she's in Scotland. He awakens her and she informs him that it's 3 a.m. Meanwhile, Tom is sitting in his apartment in full daylight. How many hours difference does director Paul Weiland thinks there are between Scotland and New York? Even assuming it's the middle of the summer, the sun does not set in Manhattan after 10 p.m.) In order to make Tom more appealing, Made of Honor makes Colin into a stuck-up White Knight stereotype. It would, after all, be dangerous to transform him into a multidimensional character because viewers might be more in favor of the Hannah/Colin pairing. Meanwhile, despite apparently being conflicted between two men, Hannah doesn't do nearly enough soul-searching until the late-innings moment when she and Tom share a lip-lock.

Most of the humor in Made of Honor is tepid, but that's not unusual for a romantic comedies. Unless someone like Judd Apatow is involved, movies in this genre are more interested in melting hearts than busting guts. Made of Honor does neither. The movie is being touted as "counterprogramming" for Iron Man, but this amounts to providing a stale, unremarkable alternative to something that's surprisingly fresh and energetic. Made of Honor is a prefabricated example of shoddy workmanship.

Made of Honor (United States/United Kingdom, 2008)

Run Time: 1:41
U.S. Release Date: 2008-05-02
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1