Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 16 News List

'27 Dresses' follows romantic comedy formula right to the altar

When it comes to this serial bridesmaid's turn to tie the knot, she makes all the right moves by bagging the Right Wrong Guy and ditching the Wrong Right Guy

By A.O. scott  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE, NEW YORK

27 Dresses, starring Katherine Heigl, is a lot like other common or garden variety rom-coms, only less funny.

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF FOX

At the beginning of 27 Dresses, Jane (Katherine Heigl), a serial bridesmaid with an almost pathological devotion to other people's nuptials, spends a long night shuttling between two weddings. One is in Midtown Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn; one has an upper-crusty, white-bread look, while the other appears to be a Jewish-Hindu intermarriage. But as director Anne Fletcher methodically cuts back and forth between them, she makes the reasonably insightful, moderately funny point that modern American weddings, however they may strain for individuality and specialness, are all pretty much alike.

The problem is that much the same could be said about modern American romantic comedies. There is a touch of idiosyncrasy here and there - in this one the heroine's dad is a widower who owns a hardware store - but most of the elements might as well have been pulled off the registry list at a high-end chain store.

The template is something like this: A career woman who lives in a bright and perky city (though usually not the one in which it was filmed; most of this Manhattan is actually Providence, Rhode Island) takes a bit under two hours to make it to the altar with (or at least be stopped at the airport by) the Right Guy, who had seemed at first to be the Wrong Guy. Earlier, the Wrong Guy had seemed to be the Right Guy.

For ease of reference let's call the one the heroine ends up with the Right Wrong Guy and the one she rejects the Wrong Right Guy. In the case of 27 Dresses the Right Wrong Guy is James Marsden, who recently played the Wrong Right Guy in Enchanted, while the Wrong Right Guy is Edward Burns, who gets to be the Right Wrong Guy mostly in movies he writes and directs himself.

Film Notes

27 DRESSES

DIRECTED BY: Anne Fletcher

STARRING: Katherine Heigl (Jane), James Marsden (Kevin), Malin Akerman (Tess), Judy Greer (Casey), Edward Burns (George)

RUNNING TIME: 107 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE: Currently showing


The best thing about 27 Dresses, which was written by Aline Brosh McKenna (whose script adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada was far more witty and interesting), is that the Guys are not really the point. Or rather, if getting the Right one is the point of the story (see above), the spark of comedy is carried by the women in the picture.

Too bad it's such a dim spark. Heigl, the blossoming babymama in Knocked Up, has an impressive gift for mugging. Her eyebrows shoot up and scrunch downward with amazing precision, and her mouth contorts itself amusingly when she says things like "gewurztraminer," "hot hate sex" and "I'm Jesus."

Which may make the movie sound more interesting than it is. To allay that impression, let me just note that the big comic-romantic set piece comes when Jane and the Right Wrong Guy get drunk at a suburban roadhouse and sing Benny and the Jets while dancing on the bar. At least it wasn't YMCA or I Got You (I Feel Good), but still.

Back at the office Jane has the requisite slutty/flaky best friend, who at least is played by the irrepressible Judy Greer (13 Going on 30). Jane's sister, Tess - her rival, as it happens, for the love of the Wrong Right Guy - is Malin Akerman, who was the only remotely funny thing about The Heartbreak Kid, in which she played the Wrong Right Girl.

Why Fletcher and McKenna couldn't have supplied these three funny, charming women with a funny, charming movie is something of a puzzle. Or maybe it isn't, since their task seems to have been to produce a movie that wouldn't make all the other movies exactly like it too envious.

Heigl certainly works hard to convince the audience of the existence of a universe in which she could be the dowdier, shyer member of a pair of sisters. The costume designer, Catherine Marie Thomas, worked at least as hard to find a dress (out of the 27 in the title) that might make Heigl look less than gorgeous. A futile effort, like most of the rest of the movie, or the attempt to find anything else to say about it.

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