Bride Wars

(2009)  1/2 Pg
90 min. 20th Century Fox Distribution. Director: Gary Winick. Cast: Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston, Bryan Greenberg.


You want to make yourself crazy? Rent yourself a little number named Bride Wars. It's like the Whack-a-Mole of everything reasonable people hate about so-called "chick flicks." Knock down one unpleasantry and three more pop up: shrilly unlikeable characters, anti-feminism, celebration of superficiality and rampant consumerism, convenient plot contrivances, nonsensical plot contrivances, bizarre behavior, and a backpedaling lack of courage in order to restore order with a highly unlikely happy ending. Unfortunately, by contributing to an out-of-control consumer "tradition," Bride Wars isn't even harmless.

There's a potentially funny dark comedy locked away inside Bride Wars, had the filmmakers chosen to go there, about the decimation of a "friendship" between two irredeemably venal and self-absorbed people. That movie could have ruthlessly satirized the conspicuous consumption encouraged by the modern wedding business (often to the content exclusion of hapless grooms), and the psychic damage it can wreak on all involved. Instead, Bride Wars—scripted by Greg DePaul and Casey Wilson & June Diane Raphael—wants to have its wedding cake and eat it too by tying its characters not into irresolvable knots but easily tugged-out bows (pretty ones!).

High-powered attorney Liv (Kate Hudson) and schoolteacher Emma (Anne Hathaway) are bestest friends who have been "inseparable for twenty years." The bond between these New Yorkers was sealed when, as little girls, they witnessed a wedding at the Plaza Hotel. Imprinted with the burning need for a picture-perfect June wedding at the Plaza, the girls have devoted most of their free time to dreaming about this ideal, so when Liv's boyfriend Daniel (Steve Howey) proposes right on the heels of Emma's boyfriend Fletcher (Chris Pratt), it's squeals of delight all around. Arm in arm, Liv and Emma go to meet legendary wedding planner Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), who signs them up for June weddings at the Plaza. Well, that was easy.

But for reasons that defy all common sense, the bookings fall through in such a way that only one June date for the next three years turns out to be available. To add further inexplicability to this injury, the women both conclude that their shared lifelong dream absolutely will not result in a double wedding: in another Hollywood variation on "the princess myth," this is each woman's special day, and each is entitled to her perfect fantasy and the full intensity of the solo spotlight. Oh, yeah, and her fiance can be there, too. Take this lovely exchange about Liv:

Fletcher: She's always looking out for number one.
Emma: I'm number one too!

The film shows little sympathy for the number twos, the fiances: Daniel is a saintly patient perfect boyfriend whose true "virtue" is indulging Liv's every selfish whim, and Fletcher is painted as an unambitious couch potato content to spend the next sixty years flipping channels next to his sweetheart. Say, how about Liv's eligible, attractive, straight brother Nate (Bryan Greenberg)? He's not doing anything for the next sixty years. The screenwriters don't even bother to hide this blatant plot machinery—you'll watch it (again) and you'll like it, ladies!

Of course, the plot requires insane inflexibility to turn friends into bitter enemies, which we all know is a hilarious idea (huh?). The film's presumable appeal is its acknowledgment and wish-fulfilled resolution of passive-aggressive competition, which the film proposes is familiar to a contingent of the female audience. Liv supposedly learns to deal with her lifelong self-imposed pressure to be perfect, though you wouldn't know it from the wedding she continues to plan. And, of course, we all learn that there's nothing more important than friendship. Not even...who are they marrying again? As for comedy, the highlight is Liv's warning "Your wedding better watch it...If I were your wedding, I'd be sleeping with one eye open." The rest is all hysterical (and not in the funny sense) feminine war crimes: tampering with fake tan hues and hair dyes, for example.

If it weren't for Kristen Johnson (as Emma's self-absorbed school principal maid of honor), the word comedy might not even apply. In one of the film's only ironies, Johnson's character is singled out and scolded for her brand of self-absorption. Emma tells her, "I have been dealing with versions of you my whole life...Sometimes it's about me. Not all the time, but every once in a while, it's my time. Like today." Right, it's her wedding day, and it's all about her. Oh, yeah, and her fiance. And her best friend, who's also getting married. She'll come around to them eventually.

/content/films/3406/1.jpgDirector Gary Winick should have known better than to make this obnoxious, noxious situation comedy (and why on earth did director of photography Frederick Elmes—the man who shot Blue Velvet, The Ice Storm and Kinsey—get saddled with this one?). Those who see hilarity in a catfight in wedding dresses—mallwalkers on break?—will, I suppose, get their money's worth. But schoolteacher notwithstanding, this is a movie about rich people made by rich people to be consumed by people of normal means. The proletariat doesn't have the concerns of these "Bridezillas," but they're supposed to look up to the out-of-reach balconies of the rich and stretch till they feel the burn. Bride Wars will have you asking, "Whatever happened to quiet desperation?" then remembering you're living it.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio

Street date: 4/28/2009

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Though the contrast seems to run a tad bright, the hi-def transfer for Bride Wars looks as freshly minted as it should, with solid marks all around. Certainly the source is completely clean and the resulting image is nicely detailed. There can be no complaining about the state-of-the-art DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which ideally replicates the theatrical experience with probably more dimensionality than the movie deserves. The three-disc hi-def set promotes ease of viewing with multiple options: a Blu-ray disc with the movie and extras, a DVD with the feature and less extras, and a Digital Copy.

The first of several Blu-exclusive bonus features, Something Old, Something New, and What That's Gonna Cost You is a fact track offering wedding trivia and "price tag pop-up"

Next up are seven "Deleted Scenes" (7:04, HD) and two Blu-exclusive "Improvisations" (2:47, HD), the first round being a series of takes by June Diane Raphael as Amanda and the second featuring Kate Hudson talking her way into the back room of the tanning salon.

Also Blu-exclusive, "Meet Me at the Plaza" (6:47, HD) focuses in on the all-important wedding setting, with comments from Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, producer Julie Yorn, Plaza general manager Shane Krige, vice president/general manager of CPS Events Steve Rice, and wedding & event creator Marcy Blum.

"The Perfect White Dress" (4:37, HD) is a self-explanatory series of interviews with Hudson, Los Angeles Weddings editor-in-chief Kathy Nenneker, event planner JoAnne Gartin, and Yorn.

"In Character with Kate Hudson" (2:15, SD) and "In Character with Anne Hathway" (3:23, SD) are brief Fox Movie Channel promos with Hudson and Hathaway, which you'll only find on the Blu-ray.

Blu-exclusive "Man Den" (4:13, HD) mockingly suggests what the estrogen of a "chick flick" might do to the male stars of the movie: Chris Pratt, Bryan Greenberg, and Steve Howey.

"Maid of Honor" (4:23, HD) is an in-character goof with Michael Arden as Kevin stressing out on the wedding day; it's also a Blu-ray exclusive. So too is "Amanda-Cam" (4:14, HD), the same sort of thing with Raphael in character as Amanda.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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