Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where Is Grandma Dorothy To Say "27 Dresses Is Dumb?"

The Good: One great line, Industry average DVD bonus features.
The Bad: Not funny, Not clever, No great character moments, Not terribly well-acted
The Basics: A dismally predictable plot and no real characters sinks 27 Dresses, a romantic comedy with one good line and acting as good as the script will allow.

Every thousand reviews or so, I find occasion to trot out one of my fondest childhood memories, which involves my (step-)Grandma Dorothy. Dorothy is now in her late 90s, still spry and with-it and she has always been a vocal commentator on politics and culture. I almost wish my father had not divorced her daughter now just so I could hear what her opinions are on the fashion trends of lowriders and thong underwear. Sigh. Good times. Anyway, the Dorothy story goes like this: my step brother got to go with Grandma Dorothy out to the movies and he picked the film. They went and saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off and when they returned home, my stepbrother at the time was fuming and still blushing. He shut himself in his room in embarrassment and it didn't take me long to find out what happened: it seems about midway through the movie, Dorothy had very loudly declared, "This is a dumb movie!"

I only wish Dorothy were still in my life right now because sometimes such a simple declaration works coming from an elderly woman that does not work coming from a reviewer. But after seeing 27 Dresses, I am left with little else to say other than, "Dang, this was a dumb movie!"

Jane is absolutely in love with weddings, from the time she was a young child to now (twenty years later). She now works as a personal assistant to George, whom she is in love with. It seems at the same time she has a de facto career as a wedding planner and her favorite writer in the New York City newspapers is the one who writes about weddings, Malcolm. Malcolm, as it turns out, is actually Kevin, who meets Jane one night when she is bouncing between two different weddings and he ends up with her planner and eventually gets it back to her.

When Jane's sister, Tess comes to town, Tess and George hit it off. Tess learns from Jane what George is actually looking for and lies to him to appear to be exactly what he wants. As Jane is heartbroken about losing the love of her life to her sister, Kevin begins to draw her attention and encourage her to stand up for what she truly wants. The task seems impossible when George proposes to Tess and Jane is asked to plan their wedding.

Here's the thing, 27 Dresses is so formulaic and stupid that the moment James Marsden appeared on screen and smiled, the viewer who has seen pretty much any romantic comedy know that he is the one Jane will end up with. Marsden plays Kevin and that cocksure, badboy thing he has working as Kevin makes him the obvious choice for Jane over the whitebread guy she's been pining for for years. Not for a moment did I believe that Jane and George would end up together.

This, of course, is the death knell of this type of romantic comedy, which essentially has one of three possible outcomes: Woman ends up with man she originally loves, woman ends up with new, more intriguing guy, or woman learns a valuable lesson about herself and arrives at a point where she is strong enough to not rely on love for satisfaction and she ends up alone but content with that. If this were a romantic drama, there would be the added possibility of tragedy in the last act, forever separating her from whomever she most loved, but the big, ridiculous dance montages at the beginning of 27 Dresses as Jane bounces between weddings assures the viewer that this is a comedy and they need not worry about leaving so unfulfilled.

27 Dresses is so obvious and hackneyed that it is astonishing Aline Brosh McKenna put her name to the screenplay as it indicates either she is a middle or high school student who has made an incredible achievement or an adult who has a stifling inability to write anything at all original. To be fair to McKenna, there is one wonderful line in 27 Dresses, when Jane compares information she has just been given to learning that one's favorite love song was written about a sandwich. The rest of the movie, utter crap in the script department. McKenna, who also did the screenplay to The Devil Wears Prada (reviewed here!) continues her trend of insisting a woman get liquored up before she has any form of sex. At least in 27 Dresses, it's consensual, but one suspects that McKenna has had one too many nights waking up next to strangers with a hangover by the way she introduces her sex scenes.

Similarly, there is nothing stellar about the direction. Anne Fletcher does a fairly straightforward bit of direction for a romantic comedy and there is nothing surprising or visually interesting in her style. As mandated by the Big Playbook Of Predictable Romantic Comedies, there is an overbearing soundtrack loaded with trendy pop songs. As well, there is a dance montage, a karaoke scene and the inevitable multiple outfit photoshoot that allows the title to be incorporated into the movie.

This would not be so bad were it not for every cliche or conceit being used in the process. Kevin is shown as a loner with only a work associate. He works under a stern, efficient woman. Jane, on the other hand, pines for her male boss, has a pretty generic close friend who is everything she is not (promiscuous, interested in fun, etc.). Jane has close ties to family and is walked all over by her sister who as fate (and obvious writing) would have it, has always been secretly jealous of Jane's stability and success instead of having to rely on her looks.

27 Dresses is a dumb movie and all of the characters are types instead of actual characters with any sense of realism or pulse to them. None of the characters are memorable in a way that the day after seeing the movie do I have so much as a memory of their names.

Katherine Heigl continues her top-bill run in romantic comedies as an attempt to capitalize on her fame from Grey's Anatomy. Like her performance in Knocked Up, her comic abilities are presented mostly as an ability to stare blankly and slack-jawed at the screen in reaction to other people's lines. To her credit, there is not much that can be done with the part of Jane and at least she looks like she is having fun during the stupid montage sequences.

Sadly, the acting star goes once more to James Marsden. Marsden surprised me with his ability to play a character who was not at all white bread in Sex Drive (reviewed here!). There, Marsden is mean and convincingly bastardly. In 27 Dresses, he may be playing the archetypal bad boy, but he's doing it well enough to be convincing. Sure, it's mostly his smile that sells it, but he's not the boring guy who appeared in the X-Men movies or on Ally McBeal. Gold star for Marsden.

Still, it's not enough to come close to recommending this DVD. The DVD has the usual commentary and featurettes, but I'll be honest, I was so bored and uninterested in the movie I couldn't bring myself to watch any of the extras. It's not worth watching and the bonus features were not going to make it worth buying suddenly.

For other works with Krysten Ritter, be sure to visit my reviews of:
She’s Out Of My League
Confessions Of A Shopaholic
Gilmore Girls - Season 7
Veronica Mars - Season 2
Someone Like You


For other movie reviews, be sure to visit the Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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