Film Review – Bridesmaids

I have been an avid fan of Judd Apatow’s ever since he produced one of the best TV shows of all time, Freaks and Geeks. I’ve loved nearly everything he’s directed or produced in the years since. Superbad is one of my favorite films of all time. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Pineapple Express are some of the best comedies of the last ten years. Audiences seemed to agree with me on Apatow up until around 2009. None of his films since then have made as much money as those early hits, and aren’t as well regarded. Many people have seen them as more of the same, similar premises featuring all of the same actors. Apatow’s new film as producer, Bridesmaids, comes out today and seems to be made to answer the criticism of his past work. Gone are Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and in their places is a group of very funny women. The film also sees Apatow re-team with Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig, now a director, and the end result is the best film he’s been involved with since Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Annie (Kristin Wiig, Adventureland) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph, Away We Go) have been best friends since childhood. As they grow older they have grown apart a little bit. Lillian is in a serious relationship and Annie has seen her dreams of becoming a baker fall apart. When Lil announces that she’s recently gotten engaged, Annie is shocked at the news. Not only might she be further losing her friend to adulthood, but she’s been put in charge of the pre-wedding planning as the maid of honor.

At Lil’s lavish engagement party (These exist? Glad my wife didn’t know…), Annie meets the rest of the bridal party. There’s cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey, TV’s Reno 911!), work friend Becca (Ellie Kemper, TV’s The Office), future sister-in-law Megan (Melissa McCarthy, Life As We Know It), and finally, Helen (Rose Byrne, Insidious). All is well with the majority of the girls. Save for a few interesting quirks, Annie gets on fine with all of them. Except for Helen, that is. Helen is the wife of Lil’s fiancé’s boss (got that?) and she and Lil seem to be very close. So close that Annie worries that Helen, with her beauty and lavish lifestyle, would make a better maid of honor. Following the engagement party, Annie sets out to make Lil’s pre-wedding the best it could ever be.

You know that old saying about best laid plans? Well Annie’s plan for Lil’s pre-wedding keeps getting worse, and causes a chain reaction that throws her whole life off the rails. Whatever can go bad does. A day consisting of a nice lunch and dress fitting ends with some irritated bowels. I’m not a fan of scatological humor at all, but Bridesmaids is so well put together that I found myself laughing hysterically at this sequence. Annie’s love life starts taking a hit as she gets further over her head trying to one-up Helen. She realizes that her fuck buddy Ted (Jon Hamm, The Town) is a jerk and an idiot. Something starts to develop between her and a police officer (Chris O’Dowd, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel), but she manages to screw that up too.

The ad campaign for Bridesmaids seems to want to sell the movie as The Hangover for girls. I can understand that. The Hangover is the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time, and its sequel comes out in a few weeks. I personally found The Hangover to be an okay film with every laugh existing solely because of Zach Galifianakis. To those worried about a gender reversal rip-off: you need not worry. The bachelorette party to Vegas seen in all of the Bridesmaids trailers is not what the film is about. It does set up the film’s funniest sequence, but it only lasts about ten minutes. The ads also want to sell the character of Megan as this film’s Galifianakis.  Well, she does have plenty of funny lines and is involved in outrageous situations, but all of the film’s comedy does not rely on her. Each actor has funny moments and no one steals the movie, because the script (written by Wiig and Annie Mumolo) doesn’t feel the need to saddle the characters with labels such as “the weird one” and “the straight man.” All in all, Bridesmaids is funnier and a better film than the 2009 hit.

The acting is solid across the board. I’ve always liked Kristin Wiig, but not as much as many people. In the past I’ve felt she played the same character over and over again. She surprised me with the amount of depth she brought to her role as the single mom in Whip It, and here she’s just as good. She trades in her usual schtick for making Annie seem like a real three-dimensional person. All of the girls in the bridal party also do good work, although at times there are so many characters that Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper get lost in the shuffle. Chris O’Dowd brings a lot of heart to his role as the man vying for Annie’s affection. His performance ensures that the romantic subplot is never overshadowed by the rest of the film. In terms of a laugh to screen time ratio, the best of the bunch are Matt Lucas (Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) and Rebel Wilson (Ghost Rider) as Annie’s British roommates. Every second they were on screen had me in stitches.

Bridesmaids is not a perfect film. At 120 minutes, it’s too long. Some of the comedy set pieces go on far too long (the microphone duel between Wiig and Byrne being the perfect example) and the film would be much improved with that fat cut out. Also, some of the funnier bits of the trailers aren’t present in the film itself, and what we get isn’t any better. Overall, these are minor annoyances. The film is the best thing Paul Feig’s been involved with since Freaks and Geeks and will hopefully lead to many more adult comedies for the director. If you’re looking for a good comedy that features interesting characters and doesn’t pander to any demographic, Bridesmaids is the perfect film for you.

Final Grade: B+


John is the co-host of The Macguffin Podcast, lover of 80s teen and horror films, and an independent filmmaker.

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