Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: "Bridesmaids"

Yes, "Bridesmaids" is pretty much a rip-off of "The Hangover" with a genitals swap-out.

The novelty that it's gals wading into a pool of raunchy humor with glee is still enough to carry it over the top, along with a winning performance by Kristen Wiig as a loser who keeps getting her faced rubbed in her own misery, and still comes out smiling.

The comedy is broad and predictable enough that I pretty much always saw it coming -- and yet I still found myself laughing when the jokes arrived right on target.

Wiig plays Annie, the former owner of a failed Milwaukee cupcake shop, whose life is going nowhere fast. Heck, she's not even stuck in neutral, she's slowly rolling backwards.

She's got a dead-end job in a jewelry store she hates, lives with a pair of weirdo British siblings, and the closest thing she has to a relationship is being used for sex by a gorgeous but vapid playboy (an uncredited Jon Hamm).

Then her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) suddenly announces her engagement, and we're off to the races of debauchery and gross-out humor.

Tagged as the maid of honor, it's up to Annie to plan the shower, bachelorette party and everything else. But she keeps getting elbowed aside by Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian's newfound friend in Chicago. Helen is beautiful, rich and outwardly charming, but clearly wants the spotlight as top wing-woman.

At the engagement party, Helen and Annie turn well-wishes to the bride and groom into a spiraling case of one-upswomanship, and it's a matter of time before the conflict blows up.

Two other gals round out the crew. Wendi McLendon-Covey plays Rita, a married friend who provides a glimpse of wedlock past its prime. Rita has three teenage boys, and describes the activities and hygiene of this sub-species of humanity in ways that are detailed, revolting and, alas, completely accurate.

Then there's the Zach Galifianakis role of the groom's sister invited along out of a dutiful sense of compulsion. Like Alan from "The Hangover," Megan is vertically challenged and horizontally blessed, with social skills not so much stunted as still in latency.

Megan pretty much epitomizes the entire movie. Even though the character is familiar (the kind term) and obvious, I couldn't get enough of her. Melissa McCarthy attacks the role with brio, and gives Megan a sort of unassailable confidence that's somehow reassuring -- even when she does things like propose a "female Fight Club" in which they beat each other senseless.

Wiig, who co-wrote the screenplay with  Annie Mumolo, holds it all together. Her Annie is a sweet girl with a bit of a mean streak, who's been hammered so much by life that we enjoy watching her fight back. Even a scene where she makes a colossal drunken spectacle of herself on a plane flight only makes us want to hug her, and wait for the next laugh.

Things get interesting with the arrival of Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd), a Wisconsin state trooper who keeps pulling Annie over in her deathtrap of a jalopy and begins a flirtatious back-and-forth. Like Annie's roommates, he's English, giving the movie an explicably British tang.

The crudity of some of the humor isn't quite up to "Hangover" standards, but it approaches. There's nothing like a bunch of women in frilly wedding dresses getting a bad case of food poisoning to prove that gals can do revolting physical comedy as well as the boys.

3 stars out of four

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