There’s something cynical about the very existence of “Bridesmaids.” You can almost see Judd Apatow and his friends having a brainstorming session, and one of them (Seth Rogen, probably), says, “Hey, we should make an all-girl comedy. We’re always accused of not writing good parts for women. Well, let’s have two women write parts of their own!” High fives all around. The scotch flows freely, until Martin Starr pukes in the pool.
And to the credit of all involved, “Bridesmaids” has its good points. While the majority of the supporting characters have the depth of stick figures, Kristen Wiig’s scenes with Chris O’Dowd are touching and real, and her character, while a mess, is a relatable, human mess. Having said that, it’s time to let this whole raunch-com thing die already. Look at what they did to “Going the Distance” last year. It’s this sweet little story about two people who help each other get back on track, and they filled it with dick jokes in order to “compete.” What a waste.
Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is down on her luck. Her bakery went out of business, and her boyfriend left her. She tries to put on a brave face when her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and makes Annie her maid of honor, but Lillian’s new BFF Helen (Rose Byrne) is threatened by Annie, and as the two face off to establish themselves as the alpha female, they ruin each step of Lillian’s engagement in the process.
There is one key difference to the events in “Bridesmaids” that separates it from the Todd Phillips movies, which are loaded with zany antics but don’t back up their actions with logic: even when Annie is screwing up at her worst, she does so while trying her best, as opposed to, say, Zach Galifianakis blowing all of his money on weed in “Due Date” for no other reason than because he’s an idiot man-child and the plot requires them to be broke. When Annie takes the bridesmaids to the Argentinean place – which produces an admittedly good gross-out scene – it’s because she thinks Lillian and the girls will love it, and they do, at least until they realize it doesn’t love them back. The movie’s secret weapon is that these things could happen in the real world, and in this genre, keeping it real is a rare gift.
But sweet Jesus, is this movie long, a good 15 minutes longer than it needs to be. The scene where Annie and Helen are trying to out-toast each other is like watching the bit in “The Simpsons” where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes; it’s clearly going for the ‘it’s funny, it’s not funny, it’s hilarious’ vibe, but it never gets to the ‘it’s hilarious’ part. The scenes at the jewelry store are equally brutal. It’s good that they gave some scenes room to breathe (the airplane scene in particular), but with a running time well over two hours, “Bridesmaids” has a bit too much breathing room.
The acting, though, is quite solid. Annie might be the most true-to-life character Wiig’s ever played, and she does a great job finding the humanity in such a screw-up. Byrne is disturbingly good as the verbal assassin Helen, and Melissa McCarthy pretty much steals the movie as Megan, the human steamroller (literally and figuratively). O’Dowd plays an Irish cop that Annie has a meet cute with, and his openness plays well against an amusing cameo by Jon Hamm as Annie’s jerkoff fuck buddy.
It’s nice to give the women a chance to play what is by and large a man’s game, and in many ways “Bridesmaids” one-ups the male-driven raunch-coms in terms of believability and emotional heft (though enough with the shots of the puppies, already). The problem is that the territory the movie covers, on both the bridal side and the gross-out side, is well worn, and while the blending of the two genres is unique, the material isn’t. Still, it could have been much worse.