We don’t usually cover “Chick Flicks” here at CraveOnline, which isn’t up to me, unfortunately, because I like them as much as any other genre. But if you’ve been paying attention to your girlfriend this summer (why not pick her up some flowers on the way home?), you’ve probably heard about how good Bridesmaids is. Touted as that rare “gross out” comedy for female audiences, Paul Feig’s new comedy – from a screenplay by Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo – broke the bank at the box office by catering to the scandalous notion that women actually want movies that don’t have the words “sex” and “the city” in them. I missed Bridesmaids in theaters, but having watched the new Blu-Ray edition coming out this week I can honestly say that your girlfriend is right: it’s a great movie… mostly.
Kristin Wiig of Saturday Night Live fame stars as Annie, a snarky former owner of a failed bakery whose life is turned upside down when her best friend Lillian (fellow SNL alum Maya Rudolph) gets engaged. Annie is the maid of honor, and now in addition to trying to get her own s**t together she’s responsible for throwing bridal showers, bachelorette parties and providing emotional support for a friend who appears to have lapped her in the game of life. Making things worse, Lillian has a new friend, Helen (X-Men: First Class’s Rose Byrne), who is like a Mirror, Mirror version of Annie, sans goatee. Everything she touches turns to gold, her competitive bridal events are cartoonishly perfect and she’s so passive-aggressive that she puts your own mother-in-law to shame. What follows is a string of comedy setups with a very high hit to miss joke ratio, from an ill-fated trip to Las Vegas to a legendarily ill-fated dress fitting.
But that could be the setup to any old-fashioned chick-friendly film, and Bridesmaids (mostly) skillfully avoids many of the standard clichés. For starters, the protagonist is kind of a bitch. She’s likable, certainly, but she’s self-centered to an enormous fault even when she’s the one being victimized by Helen or life in general, which is a pleasing change of pace from the usual whitewashed protagonist in this sort of thing. Annie’s life isn’t improved by settling down and finding a guy, although she does attract one of the better romantic comedy leads in recent memory, played by Gulliver’s Travels co-star Chris O’Dowd. It’s improved by, as her mother repeats, hitting rock bottom. It’s only when Annie’s life is completely destroyed that she can build it back up again, and to the film’s credit that’s an involving journey to take part in. More impressively, the end of the picture doesn’t solve all her problems, although she’s making sufficient headway that Bridesmaids’ conclusion still thoroughly satisfies.
The actual hero’s journey is fairly straightforward, but getting there is unusually inventive, taking the audience from one comedy genre to another, mirroring Annie’s own struggles. As the film begins she’s living the single life, dissatisfied but content with her close friendship with Lillian, and for a brief while Bridesmaids plays like a generic Sex and the City episode, filled with “Girls Talk About Sex Too” comedy routines. As the wedding plans tip Annie’s life out of balance, the film takes a turn towards the outlandish and disgusting, reflecting her own lack of control and restraint. And in the last act, when her life finally starts turning around, Bridesmaids segues neatly into more wholesome romantic comedy tropes, implying that Annie’s story will continue but in a more life-affirming manner. Not many films would dare to switch sub-genres repeatedly to reflect the protagonist’s state of mind, but Bridesmaids deserves credit for pulling it off.
Unfortunately, that first Sex and the City part of the story suffers from the same problems as Sex and the City: stilted comedic timing and “jokes” in name only, so for a time Bridesmaids seems to be coasting on what it perhaps perceives as innate target audience sympathy. And while I said before the hit to miss joke ratio is quite high in favor of genuine laughs, that’s an overall average: large chunks of the film go by without so much as a snicker. That’s no slight to the cast however, particularly Wiig and supporting stars Wendi McLendon-Covey and Melissa McCarthy, who steal most of their scenes and, in McCarthy’s case, have one of the most memorable dramatic revelations I’ve seen in a while.
Bridesmaids dazzles on Blu-Ray with a lush presentation full of bright color and relative detail, although it’s still a romantic comedy so the surround sound presentation is unimpressive, but that’s fine. Where this Blu-Ray excels is in the special features, which are too numerous to mention. (Well, maybe I’m just being lazy.) In addition to the single funniest gag reel I’ve ever seen – usually this is the haven of mere flubbed lines, but with a cast of talented comediennes even those moments spring forth comic gold – there’s tons of deleted material, most of it worth watching for fans (and most of it exclusive to the Blu-Ray), and a thoroughly energetic commentary track courtesy of Paul Feig, Kristin Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper.
Bridesmaids is a smart and mostly funny comedy that only appears on the surface to be targeted towards an exclusively female audience. Comedy fans of all stripes will find it an involving, character-driven and clever film despite occasional rough patches. It’s firmly recommended.
CRAVEONLINE RATING (Film): 8/10
CRAVEONLINE RATING (Blu-Ray): 9/10