Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman, Edward Burns, Judy Greer, Brian Kerwin

MPAA Rating:  (for language, some innuendo and sexuality)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 1/18/08

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Review by Mark Dujsik

She's always a bridesmaid and never a bride, dreaming of finding a guy to sweep her off her feet and give her the storybook romance she's longed for most of her life. He's a cynic, announcing he doesn't believe in love but secretly hiding a deep-seated optimism that true love is out there somewhere. Can they get past their external differences and discover they're meant to be together? Every bit of 27 Dresses is formula, from the characters and their arcs to the plot that brings in complications up until its final act where everyone lives happily ever after.

It's as predictable as the answer to that question, and yet, I'm recommending it. The reason is simple: The cast makes it work. There's no way to be surprised by what happens in the film or even how it all happens, but what is surprising is the level of ease with which these actors manage to help us forget for a large chunk of the movie's running time that they are playing basic character types, set up solely as tools of a formula script. That the script doesn't overdo the complications helps, too, and it somehow works.

Ever since attending her first wedding at the age of eight where she helped the bride fix a torn dress, Jane (Katherine Heigl) has known that helping people at their weddings is what she wants to do, and all the while, she "couldn't wait for [her] own special day." Now in her late twenties, Jane is still helping friends and family with their weddings, up to attending two weddings as a bridesmaid in one night. While partying at one of those weddings, Kevin (James Marsden), a wedding writer for a New York newspaper, notices Jane occasionally ducking out, and when Jane is knocked down and out in the scuffle for the bouquet, he helps her out.

While sharing a cab, he discovers her two-wedding shuffle, and they learn they are polar opposites when it comes to their feelings on love and marriage. Jane accidentally leaves her schedule in the taxi, and Kevin, being the nosy reporter he is, takes a gander through it, finding out she has a string of weddings she's attended. At work, Jane has a major crush on her boss George (Edward Burns) but hasn't said anything to him. After all, she is his assistant.

To complicate matters for our already lonely heroine, Jane's sister Tess (Malin Akerman) arrives in town and starts a whirlwind romance with George under false pretenses based on information Jane gave her baby sister about her crush. Meanwhile, Kevin sees Jane as the potential subject for a legitimate story—a piece that could jump-start his career. There's nothing new to this story, but screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna does take enough time setting up Jane's perpetual romantic misery, her willingness to do anything for a friend (let alone a sister), and her hope for a love to call her own to make her a sympathetic character.

Katherine Heigl is endearing in the role, and while every move of her character's arc is based on the necessities and complications of the plot, she manages to make us care enough about Jane to ignore it. Take the scene in which she watches as Tess and George start their relationship. She's just gotten up the courage to talk to him at a club (after thinking he sent her flowers), and as she approaches, she watches in devastated acceptance as Tess and George meet (after which she learns it was the dry cleaning bill he left on Jane's desk).

Heigl is solid here, but so is James Marsden as the determined but charming Kevin, who, of course, has a secret to hide about his romantic history to explain his misogamy. Malin Akerman is cute, difficult, and then surprisingly vulnerable as Tess has to live up to her sister's example only to find herself falling incredibly short, and Edward Burns is confident without being cocky. Even Judy Greer manages to pull off what is the most obvious formula character—that of the heroine's snarky, sex-loving friend. A story like this is usually full of complications up until the ultimate get-together of the leads, but McKenna's script is thankfully underwritten, allowing the initial obstacles to serve as the basis for Jane's own personal troubles.

The article that Kevin is writing hangs over the script as a potential, forced relationship-destroyer, and while the film's final act certainly follows through on that promise for a clichéd and strained footfall in Jane and Kevin's relationship, beforehand, we get an enjoyable scene of the two drunkenly trying to figure out the lyrics to "Bennie and the Jets" ("She's got electric boobs?"). Kevin also helps Jane grow a spine, and after everything hits the fan, she might have grown too much of one.

The movie is an undemanding romantic comedy, and I am not suggesting it's anything more or less than that. I wasn't bothered by its over-reliance on formula until after it was over, and the actors make the transparent examples forgivable. 27 Dresses does what it needs to do and is enjoyable in the process; there's not much else for which to ask.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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