Friday, January 1, 2010

Shrilly unfunny "Bride Wars" wages stars' likability against us

Bride Wars (2009) 
90 min., rated PG.

January is the dumping-ground month that big-studio Hollywood movies are doomed to failure. Case in point with the contrived and stridently unfunny "Bride Wars": Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson's own "Monster-in-Law." Inseparable and obsessed with weddings since childhood, school teacher Emma (Hathaway, looking gorgeous as usual) and lawyer Liv (Hudson, looking like she was left out in the sun too long and with bad bangs) get engaged to their boyfriends one day apart. Both women, who have always dreamt of marrying in New York's Plaza Hotel and being each other's maid of honor, have their nuptials booked on the exact same day by renowned wedding planner Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen, and oh how Murphy Brown has fallen). 

It is never quite clear what the whole fuss is about, or why neither of them agree on other options, but when neither will budge to re-schedule the wedding date, let the hair-pulling begin and get ready for this screechy, sabotaging pair of bridezillas to rumble! The sorostitute-like battle escalates: We get Emma sending a formerly obese Liv chocolate truffles and cookie baskets from the International Butter Club so she won't fit into her Vera Wang wedding gown (that'll show her!); and both brides-to-be switch the other's hair and tanning dyes (are you LOLing yet?). For a laborious 90 minutes, it's a catty-as-PG-can-be cat fight noticeably without claws but chock-full of immature 8-year-old pranks. 

Director Gary Winick and the three writers (Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, and June Diane Raphael) are stingy on laughs, charm, and bite when it comes to "Bride Wars," which finally kills two birds with one stone: It throws on its predictably mawkish “truce” and sequel setup ... “Baby-Mama Wars” maybe? With their Crest Whitestrip smiles, Hathaway and Hudson are probably real nice people in real life, and seem to be having a blast on screen, which is more than what can be said for the audience. These two women are presented as annoying, babbling idiots, setting back the female movement nearly 60 years when marriage was priority numero uno. (Even “Sex and the City” cried out more female independence than this.) Called obnoxious and overbearing even by her own beau, Hudson's Liv is just that, and Hathaway's Emma is simply a nice girl lowering herself to her shrill ex-gal pal's level, while the hubbies-to-be (Steve Howey, Chris Pratt) and Liv's bro (Bryan Greenberg) are interchangeable non-entities. 

Only Kristen Johnston gets a few one-liners in edgewise as Emma's desperate choice for bridesmaid. Sugar-free gum probably has more wit than anything in "Bride Wars."

Grade: D +

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