27 Dresses

2008, Movie, PG-13, 107 mins


Light, formulaic and soft around the middle, choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher and Aline Brosh McKenna's "always a bridesmaid... " tale doesn't miss a pop-psych or pop-culture cliché en route to its fairy-tale ending.

Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl, of TV's Grey's Anatomy) is a woman who loves too much — not men, but weddings. Jane lives for them, and when her friends start getting married, she corners the (unpaid) market in arranging all things matrimonial: cakes, flowers, invitations, last-minute fittings — she'll even hold the bride's fairy-tale dress while she pees. Following a brief prologue that neatly establishes the childhood roots of Jane's compulsive urge to look after everyone but herself, the movie opens as she does bridesmaid's duty at two weddings — her 26th and 27th — on the same day, changing outfits in a taxi as she shuttles between ceremonies. Her high-wire act catches the attention of cynical "New York Journal" columnist Kevin Doyle (James Marsden), who pensthe paper's "Commitments" column (think the New York Times' "Vows"). He'd like to be writing meaty exposes of venal wedding-industry practices, but he'll settle for a peppy-yet-psychologically incisive portrait of a perpetual bridesmaid, an idea his pragmatic editor approves.

Jane's real job — the bill-paying one — is as personal assistant to entrepreneur George (Ed Burns), who turned his passion for outdoor adventuring into the lucrative "Urban Everest" empire, and loves him from afar; he relies on her formidable organizational skills, never dreaming that she's dreaming of him. Then Jane's irresponsible, sex-bomb baby sister, Tess (Malin Akerman), blows into town and sweeps George off his feet; suddenly Jane is planning her sister's wedding to the man she loves while ignoring the advances of Kevin, who finds himself falling for the girl behind the snarky story. How will it all turn out?

Leaving aside Judy Greer's bracingly acerbic turn as Jane's disillusioned best friend, the film's secret weapon is Heigl's unforced charm: She has the gift of seeming like a swell regular girl who hides her light under a bushel rather than a Hollywood hottie waiting to shed her glasses, let down her hair and luxuriate in the astonished cries of "Why, Miss Dormouse, you're beautiful!" But where screenwriter McKenna transformed Lauren Weisberger's formulaic The Devil Wears Prada into a surprisingly sharp movie about the bitter compromises successful women make, her original screenplay is formulaic and predictable: Girls just want to play princess for a day. Would that she'd had the courage to follow up on Kevin's declaration that women don't want to be married — they just want weddings. That might have produced a bitingly funny film about the war between men and women, circa 2008. Instead, 27 DRESSES wallows in lazy sentiment and cheap sentimentality, reaching its nadir in the scene in which Kevin and Jane drunkenly bond over mangling the lyrics to Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" in a blue-collar bar. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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