Katherine Heigl as Jane
James Marsden as Kevin
Malin Ackerman as Tess
Edward Burns as George
Judy Greer as Casey
Melora Hardin as Maureen
Brian Kerwin as Hal
David Castro as Pedro
Charli Barcena as Young Tess
Peyton List as Young Jane
Michael Ziegfeld as Taxi Driver Khaleel
Yetta Gottesman as Hip Bridesmaid
Erin Fogel as Shari Rabinowitz
Laksh Singh as Hindu Priest
Directed by Anne Fletcher
A somewhat predictable but unapologetic chick flick that’s surprisingly painless thanks to strong writing and casting that keeps things fun without resorting to stupid or obvious gags.
Wedding junkie Jane (Katherine Heigl) typifies the cliché of the woman that’s always a bridesmaid never a bride, becoming infamous as the one every woman should befriend if they want to have the perfect wedding. When a cynical wedding reporter (James Marsden) learns of Jane’s obsession with weddings, he starts following her around for a story, while Jane’s sister Tess (Malin Ackerman) has come to town and immediately sets her own sights on Jane’s boss George (Ed Burns) who Jane has been madly in love with for years.
Sometime in the next ten years, film schools will have to start including some sort of class analyzing the romantic genre in its myriad forms over the last 60 or 70 years, and when that happens (if not happening already), surely an entire class will be spent dissecting the latest addition to that genre from “the writer of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’” aka Aline Brosh McKenna yes, it’s gotten to the point where a movie can be marketed solely on who wrote it. “27 Dresses” certainly offers some of the same formula that drives any romantic comedy, good or bad, but it also makes more of an effort not to lose sight of what makes a good film stories, characters and situations that seem half-way credible.
We’re introduced to Katherine Heigl’s Jane as she’s jockeying between two very different weddings, one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan, both of which she’s acting as bridesmaid and wedding planner. Hiring a cab for the night and changing in the backseat, Jane is able to maintain her obligations while fueling her lifelong obsession with weddings. Along comes James Marsden’s cynical wedding reporter Kevin who witnesses Jane’s frenetic mission as he covers one of the weddings and when Jane leaves her planner in a shared cab, he knows that he’s struck journalistic gold that will give him the story that will finally get him off of the wedding pages.
It doesn’t take long for “27 Dresses” to veer away from the central premise of a woman obsessed with weddings to start focusing on Jane’s life between weddings, working at a tough job for a boss (played by Edward Boss) who she’s been infatuated with for years. Jane’s bad luck with men continues when her globe-trotting younger sister Tess (Malin Ackerman) shows up and immediately starts to put her grasps on George, and when the two are engaged a few weeks later, poor Jane is called upon by both sister and boss to help make their wedding perfect.
Eventually, Kevin reenters the picture and starts following Jane around under the pretension that it’s for his coverage of her younger sister’s wedding, and we get a great montage where Jane models all 27 of the bridesmaid’s dresses for what would turn out to be a story that mocks Jane’s obsession. This whole thing is a set-up for what must be some sort of record for the longest “meet cute” since “Moonlighting,” that old standby where two people of the opposite sex who seemingly hate each other spend so much time together that it’s inevitable they hook up. Fortunately, the duo of Heigl and Marsden are an attractive pair with strong on-screen chemistry amidst their squabbling, and Marsden is a definite step up from Seth Rogen.
Heigl effortlessly slips into this type of role, holding her own when dealing with situational comedy or the more physical kind, so that you can really believe her as this character, which often is half the battle in any romantic comedy. Unlike the unfortunate recent romantic turns by Diane Keaton and Hilary Swank, you never feel as if she’s slumming or doing lesser work, as she delivers a surprisingly stronger performance than in “Knocked Up.” Likewise, Marsden continues a run of great roles, three for three after playing Corny Collins in “Hairspray” and the gallant prince in “Enchanted.” Clearly, Marsden is a charming and handsome actor who should be doing more light comedy, although the five people who saw him in “Heights” will know that he’s just as capable of drama that doesn’t involve any sort of mutants.
Maintaining her career-long quest to be the one anyone calls when they need a “young Cameron Diaz”, Malin Ackerman is believable as Jane’s sister if not stretching much from previous roles in the scenes used to solidify their sisterly relationship. It’s just as plausible that both women might fall for Burns’ Branson-like philanthropist, a stronger part for him than some of his previous rom-com parts. Sadly, the normally great Judy Greer is the only member of the cast trying way too hard for laughs as Jane’s sex-crazed best friend, the film’s one cliché nod to the genre.
McKenna and director Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”) look more towards romance movies from the ’40s for direction rather than the modern romantic comedies that rely solely on their premise without thinking about the important of good character building, story developments or jokes that are actually funny. Instead of trying hard with laughs in the obvious way, they create fun moments used to build the relationship between Jane, her boss, her sister and the interloper who seems to show up everywhere to plague Jane, culminating in a very funny scene where they mangle Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” in a dive bar.
Otherwise, the dialogue feels natural and unforced, something that’s often difficult when trying to keep things simple for a mass audience that might have their own strong beliefs about love and romance. Too many subplots are introduced at the beginning, something that’s far too common for the genre, as it spends much of the first hour following Jane and Kevin in their separate lives, but things do come together predictably as the two start to get close just as Kevin’s unflattering story about Jane runs. From there, things go exactly where one might expect with only one awkward tangent to resolve Jane’s crush on her boss that involves a scene nearly identical to the recent “P.S. I Love You,” which was an example of how the romantic comedy genre can go horribly wrong. Compared to so many of last year’s romantic comedies, “27 Dresses” is a masterpiece.
The Bottom Line:
For someone like myself who absolutely despises the romantic comedy genre at its most formulaic, “27 Dresses” is one of those rare entries that does work as a date movie, since it doesn’t pretend to be something more than a fun movie for women, but like “Prada” or Will Smith’s “Hitch,” it also understands that guys often are dragged to these movies by their wives and girlfriends, so it offers a lighter look at romance and relationships without ever getting preachy or anti-male. This could ultimately be the movie that female fans of Heigl, Marsden and romance itself will reference again and again in their future.
28 Dresses doesn’t open until January 18, but you can catch a sneak preview on Sunday, January 13.