Kate Hudson as Liv
Anne Hathaway as Emma
Bryan Greenberg as Nate
Chris Pratt as Fletcher
Steve Howey as Daniel
Candice Bergen as Marion St. Claire
Kristen Johnston as Deb
Michael Arden as Kevin
Victor Slezak as Colson
Kelly Coffield as Kathy
John Pankow as John
It’s a new year and the race is on for which will be the first clichéd melodrama, the first juvenile action movie, the first sitcom disguised as movie and it looks like we’ve got one winner already.
Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson) have only ever had one dream their whole lives: to have a June wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Which, if true, is embarrassingly shallow, but to each their own. I assume, I hope, they’ve had other focuses in their lives as well, other dreams and aspirations. But I’ll never know; that’s a level of character detail completely outside “Bride Wars” interests. When Emma and Liv finally do get their proposals it looks like they’re finally going to have everything they’ve ever wanted. That wouldn’t be much of a story, so they quickly find themselves with their weddings scheduled for the same day, which means one of them is going to have to give up their dream. Whether they want to or not.
“Bride Wars” has all the depth and introspection of a Candace Bushnell book. I’m amazed that neither of the main characters works in the fashion industry or as a magazine editor (which seems to be the other fantasy occupation of choice). Liv is an Type A corporate lawyer, used to getting her own way by hook or by crook. Emma is her not quite opposite, a push over teacher, always trying to make other people happy, often at her own expense. It goes without saying that as their conflict evolves they begin to see pieces of each other in themselves. “Bride Wars” is very much a movie for women, one of those simultaneous ridicules and celebrations of the neurosis that drive men crazy.
Hathaway and Hudson have done this sort of thing before and they’re fine, but neither of them are natural comedienne’s either. They’re dependent on their material, and “Bride Wars” never really rises above a chuckle. Written mainly by “Saturday Night Live” alum Casey Wilson, “Bride Wars” has the problem a lot of SNL-er material has – it’s not well adapted to the feature length form. I have a hard time coming up with sketch comedy writers who were able to extrapolate to a longer form without losing any of their punch. Woody Allen, Harold Ramis, maybe Dan Ackroyd. Even Tina Fey is better off on a sitcom than the big screen, and the same is probably true of Wilson. A lot of “Bride Wars’” small, well-observed character moments are excellent (especially Michael Arden’s obsequious personal assistant), but the bigger jokes have all been stolen from other, better movies. Liv sabotages Emma’s spray tan, so Emma gets Liv’s hair died blue. It doesn’t want to be a dark comedy, which is where the material probably would like to go, so it just ends up sort of bland. Worse, a lot of important character material is casually brushed aside in order to make room for them, such as the fact Liv is an orphan since childhood, which seems to be a huge part of why she is the way she is, but which barely registers in the film. On the other hand, when “Bride Wars” finally does get to its big conclusion at least it doesn’t devolve into a piece of emotionally circumferential gibberish. I can actually understand what Liv and Emma are talking about. I don’t really care, but I can’t understand it.
The problem with this sort of thing is it does women no favors. The escapism and fantasy aspect is perfectly understandable, but still, it renders its women characters as stereotypes only capable of approaching the world the way a character from a prime-time TV show might. The point of “Bride Wars” and movies like it, is usually about how complicated women are, and how that needs to be understood rather than changed. But that’s awfully hard to take from stuff this one-dimensional.