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Bridesmaids Occasionally Funny, Often Not

Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Universal, 2011

Kristen Wiig is one of those actresses of the past few years that have proved that there is a place for women in comedy, and not just to play the girlfriend or the “straight woman” to the usual funny man.  In the past, we had awesome comediennes such as Gilda Radnor and Madeline Kahn, but it never really translated to an onslaught of top-name women getting huge movies like all the top comic actors were getting.  The reason for this is pretty obvious: men don’t know how to write women, and men still dominate Hollywood.  But with the emergence of Tina Fey, we’re seeing women who aren’t waiting around for the guys to write them roles.  They write for themselves.

And what we’re seeing is the actually quite fantastic idea that women don’t have it together all the time.  The male bias in Hollywood tends to write women as the smart ones, the ones who never falter, have never struggled in life.  Tina Fey has shown with 30 Rock a refreshing take on a woman who is (barely) successful in her career while being an absolute disaster everywhere else.  Her SNL cohort Amy Poehler has portrayed this well on Parks and Recreation.  On the same show, we have Aubrey Plaza playing a girl by who every measure is a knockout, but her droll, lackadaisical attitude knocks her down several pegs, and is all the funnier for it.  I would also throw in Anna Faris as another actress who has taken roles where vanity has taken a back seat.   There are quite a few others who play smaller roles (Judy Greer, Amber Nash, and Aisha Tyler, all of the animated Archer) who continue to prove this is a great time for funny women.

Kristen Wiig is another fantastic addition.  She stole her brief scenes in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, and she’s been making the rounds in movies playing women who might be beautiful, but realistically have the same problems with arrested development as men.  She co-wrote Bridesmaids with relative unknown Annie Mumolo, who also shows up in the movie as a frightened airline passenger.

All of that said, Bridesmaids is sometimes very funny, but there are deathly stretches that are not.  Wiig stars as Annie, a woman who is having trouble landing a serious man.  The very first scene shows her romping around with Ted (an uncredited, and hilarious, Jon Hamm), who is totally not serious about making it a relationship.  Meanwhile, her best friend Lillian (the also fantastic Maya Rudolph) has just gotten engaged, and thus the story revolves around how this affects Annie as she helps plan the wedding with Lillian.  The first rocky step is meeting all of Lillian’s bridesmaids: Rita (Reno 911’s Wendy McClendon-Covey), Becca (The Office’s relative newcomer Ellie Kemper), Megan (Gilmore Girls‘ alum Melissa McCarthy, who steals every scene she’s in), and the superfine Helen (Rose Byrne), who becomes Annie’s biggest rival for “bestest best friend ever.”

Competition between the two women leads to horrible outcomes for Annie, which leads to horrible outcomes for everyone else.  The setups for these horrible events occur at the bridal fitting room, on an airplane to Vegas, and at an immaculately produced bridal shower.  Annie’s insecurity involving her own life (recently unemployed, can’t land a man, has an awful living arrangement with her roommate and his mooching sister) causes her to act out in inappropriate ways.  Even when she has a great guy show up in her life, the police officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd), she doesn’t know what to do with him.

The movie is way too long, which isn’t surprising with Judd Apatow’s involvement.  Paul Feig is a veteran TV director (The Office and Arrested Development, to name a couple), so it’s a little surprising that the movie runs over the two hour mark.  What this means is there are stretches that seem way too long and don’t go anywhere.  The airplane sequence has a couple of moments, but many of the jokes die and it lasts for a good portion of the movie.  What the movie has is scene-stealing moments from Hamm and McCarthy, with Wiig alternately owning the movie and letting it get away from her.  There are lines clearly written to get that “edgy” feel that go absolutely flat (I’ve seen better tennis in a tampon commercial!).

I’ll take out a classic critical word here: uneven.

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