‘Bridesmaids’ is a decent ladies-only comedy

Bridesmaids, the 2011 film co-written by SNL star Kristin Wiig, was a smash hit. Not only did it confirm that the comedienne had the legs to become a legitimate movie star, but the media heralded a new age when guys would be just as happy to watch women be funny and gross and ridiculous. Underneath all this is a so-so comedy that relies heavily on a smashing list of women comics: Wiig stars with Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rebel Wilson and the late (and fantastic) Jill Clayburgh. And the group of women do their best and offer some great laughs, but Wiig’s script (written with her real-life pal Annie Mumolo) doesn’t always match the combined talent.

Wiig stars as Annie, a down-on-her-luck Milwaukee baker whose life is kind of shit. She lost her bakery in the economic crash, she’s involved with a dirtbag (a funny Jon Hamm), and is perennially broke. The only truly good thing in her life is her friendship with Lillian (Rudolph), who drops a huge bomb in her lap: she’s getting married. Suddenly Annie’s and Lillian’s special friendship gets a bit sticky because Lillian’s new bestie, Helen (Rose Byrne) is slowly pulling an All About Eve and usurping Annie’s position as her best friend. Lillian, of course, is clueless – the audience can see what Helen’s doing – I mean the woman upstages Annie at every turn with such unconcealed zeal and vigor, she’s practically a cartoon villain (all she needs is a moustache she can twirl and some dramatic theme music) – but as is necessary in these kinds of plots, Lillian is blind to her new best friend’s machinations. This plot device is a bit of a hole in the plot and I blame Wiig and Momolo who craft Lillian to be such a smart cookie, that when she has these weird moments of naivte it’s kinda incredulous.

None of this would be a problem if we had a heroine we can get behind, but Annie’s a bit of a bore and  a boor. She’s unlikable, but she’s also coming off (at times) as a post-millenium Meg Ryan. The script see-saws from snarky, gross-out humor of the Judd Apatow variety (Apatow produced the film), and then feels it needs to concede to rom-com conventions. The former is stronger and feels like a more natural fit for the pair of screenwriters, and the later comes off forced.

Still, I can’t say Bridesmaids isn’t entertaining – and the credit is due to the cast. The standout is McCarthy who’s had a banner year (she copped an Emmy for her TV sitcom Mike and Molly). She’s hilarious, and is deserving of all the accolades, including the Oscar nod – she outclasses the material with her zealous comic performance. Wiig is also good, and it’s nice to see her step outside the 5-minute borders her SNL skits forced on her – while she’s not an incredibly versatile actress, she shows strong potential. Rudolph, as always, is a scene-stealer, and manages to do so with a quiet subtly; Byrne is a fantastic villain (though the script underused her). Kemper shows the same winsome charm she displays on The Office; McLendon-Covey is also a find – it’s a shame she didn’t get as much attention, but she’s a foul-mouthed wonder as vulgar, oversexed housewife friend of Lillian’s. And as Annie’s mom, the legendary Clayburgh is lovely. As a fun extra, a blooper has the late actress recite a particularly crude line, and she does so with her usual grace and elegance, and Wiig cannot control her nervous giggles and finally she admits, “I just realized that we’re making you say this.”

But the combined comic power of the ladies cannot help hide the script’s shortcomings, nor does it conceal the fact that Wiig and Mumolo try really hard to ape the male-oriented Apatow films. The film works best when the screenwriters just revel in the smart, wiseass ladies that Lillian and Annie are when together – they’re profane, irreverent and slightly jerky (they steal exercise, for god’s sake); one the flip side, a disgusting scene in a ladies bathroom involving projectile vomit and diarrhea reeks of pandering.

The DVD has some deleted scenes – and usually deleted scenes are deleted for a reason. But there’s an awesome scene where Annie goes on a date with Dave, played with total and genius committment by Paul Rudd (a pro at comedies like this). The date starts off like a Woody Allen film at its most genial, but then things turn south, and the date takes on tragedy of epic proportions.

Though it was wildly overrated upon its release, Bridesmaids is still worth watching, if only to see the all-too-rare gathering of women comics working at their best.

Click here to buy Bridesmaids on amazon.com.

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Filed under Celeb, Comedy, DVD, movie, movie review

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