Movie Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids
Photo: Universal Pictures

After Bridesmaids screened at the South by Southwest Film Festival the buzz was hard to avoid. However, while early buzz promised a laugh-out-loud film, the marketing predicted a cliched comedy we’ve seen too many times before. Trusting my gut instinct, I went in skeptical and came out pleasantly surprised, though not overwhelmingly so.

Thankfully, this isn’t the female version of The Hangover the trailers made it look like it was trying to be. Strangely enough it falls right in line with the Judd Apatow “bromances” as of late, the main difference being these aren’t bros, they’re — nope, I’m not going to go there — ladies, ladies with filthy mouths and occasional bouts with digestive problems.

The story revolves around the friendship between life-long best friends Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Annie is a bit of a mess. She’s low on money as her specialty bakery recently closed down and her love life is in shambles as she regularly makes late night visits to a man (Jon Hamm in all his chauvinistic glory) who clearly doesn’t respect her. Making matters worse, Lillian just got engaged and has asked Annie to be her maid of honor.

Attempting to push her troubles aside, Annie does her best to be there for her friend, but when Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s fiance’s boss’s wife, tries to step in and play the “I know her better than you do” card, friendships weaken and trouble ensues with a fair bit of comedy along the way leading up to a rather traditional and sentimental conclusion.

Both “Saturday Night Live” alums, Rudolph and Wiig are perfect together; you believe every aspect of their friendship in an instance of perfect casting. As a several year star on “Saturday Night Live”, Wiig has become something of a parody of herself, but here she’s able to break those shackles and is allowed to just be a woman as opposed to the caricature she’s become so used to playing. Opposite Rudolph, the early moments in this film establish the relationship the two share, serving as the glue holding the entire film together.

This friendship, however, is perceived to be up for grabs as Annie feels threatened by Helen’s assumed perfection. Scenes ranging from a highly uncomfortable toast to a rather typical game of smash mouth tennis lend to the rising competition between the duo. And yet, nothing will prepare you for the uncomfortable dress fitting that follows Annie’s suggestion for brainstorming over a cheap Greek dinner, not even this sentence.

While the competition rages on, the bridesmaids that make up the supporting cast add their own personal touches. Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper play kindred spirits, one a bit softer spoken than the other, while Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly”) is the most notable of the bunch. However, I’m not going to sugar coat it; McCarthy plays the stereotypical role of an overweight, loud-mouthed but lovable friend in this film. She says inappropriate things, farts and just throws her weight around in general, but she owns it and is given plenty of the film’s solid one-liners. The only time the jokes begin to get a bit unfunny is late in the film when it goes from being a comedy to more of a sitcom-ish drama. Rest assured, though, McCarthy and Hamm still deliver some of the film’s best moments late in the game.

One last name that should be mentioned is Chris O’Dowd, whom you may remember as the blind swordsman from Dinner for Schmucks or more likely as the jilted husband in Pirate Radio. Here he plays the likable Irish cop Rhodes, and like the friendship between Wiig and Rudolph, O’Dowd’s performance brings needed heart to the picture to make sure it never strays too far into becoming just another over-the-top comedy.

Bridesmaids is director Paul Feig’s first film since 2006’s rather harmless Unaccompanied Minors, but he’s been working on some of the biggest television comedies since, including “30 Rock” and “The Office”. As unlikely a choice as he may have been for the project he was the right man for the job, and the fact he was a creator of “Freaks and Geeks” with producer Judd Apatow probably didn’t hurt either.

I can’t declare this an absolute hit as some of the timing is a bit off due to the film’s occasional tonal shifts from outrageous comedy lending to a sentimental story of friendship. But the main reason I have a hard time giving Bridesmaids my full support is because I’m not sure I want to see it again. I enjoyed it a lot the first time, but, like most of the films Apatow is involved with, I’m often a once and done kind of viewer. That said, I would still recommend this film to anyone in a heartbeat. It will likely satisfy a multitude of audiences as it can easily serve as a date night feature as well as a night out with the girls.