January 21, 2008

Movie Review: 27 Dresses

Looking to get your Valentine's Day celebration kicked off early? Me neither. However, someone thought it was a good idea to release this romantically charged comedy in January. Of course, someone also thought that it made smart business sense to release Halloween at Labor Day. The best I can guess is that there was a desire to have some sort of counter programming to the disaster flick Cloverfield. In that regard it was a good ploy, as the screening I was at on opening night was filled. On top of that, the sweet-natured film was actually entertaining. It was nothing revolutionary, but it was fun nonetheless.

27 Dresses is pure romantic formula. There is nothing surprising to anyone who has seen even just a couple from this genre. It stars Katherine Heigl, an actress poised to take over the mantle of big screen cutie that has been held by the likes of Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, and Reese Witherspoon (whether you like them or not, they have had their time as the top Hollywood romantic leads). Following her big screen breakthrough in Knocked Up, Heigl is back in this more widely accessible film that will do nothing but further endear her with a larger audience. Forget about Grey's Anatomy, this is the true test of her likability.

No sooner does the movie start, you know where it is going to end. The joy is in the ride. The success of the film lies with in the performances. A poor script can be covered up of the performances; a good cast can cover up plot deficiencies. In the case of 27 Dresses, the implausibilities can be ignored as you float along for the ride.

That said, 27 Dresses is not a great movie. It floats along on a cloud of good will, but it does not have enough behind it to raise it above the mediocre. Yes, the formula is used to fine effect, but it is as if they took all of the clichés arranged them on a board and used it as a road map. Each cliché was the next road sign, each sign the next stop they need to make it to. I can almost picture director Callie Khouri and writer Aline Brosh Mckenna working down the list checking off each stop en route to the inevitable conclusion. Sometimes formula films work and can work the formula to be something bigger, while others, like this one, are content to work the formula and not push it towards anything more than that.

The story follows Jane (Heigl), a woman who loves weddings. She loves them so much that she has a closet full of bridesmaid dresses, 27 to be exact (but I am guessing you knew that from the title). By day she is an assistant to an ad executive, George (played by Edward Burns) whom she is secretly in love with; by night she is endlessly arranging the weddings of her friends. The plot kicks into high gear when her flighty sister, Tess (The Heartbreak Kid's Malin Ackerman), has a chance meeting with George followed by a whirlwind romance. Guess who Tess wants to be her maid of honor? Jane has complications of her own when she has an encounter with the paper's commitments writer, Kevin (X-Men's James Marsden). There are clearly sparks between the two, but as the formula demands, the two must not get along until much later on.

Should I go on with a plot description? I think not. Most of you can probably fill in the pieces based on what you saw in the trailer.

Why does it work at all? Simple. The cast. It is a good cast. They all know what they are doing and they all hit their marks.

Katherine Heigl does a fine job that gets better the further in she goes. Early on she seemed to struggle with her comic timing, but that may have been more of an issue with editing than performance. The camera loves her and she has a very good screen presence. You know, if the TV thing doesn't work out, maybe she can make a career on the big screen?

Behind her, the supporting cast did a fine job. In particular Judy Greer and James Marsden. Judy Greer plays Casey, Jane's cynical friend and tag along. Her her delivery and timing are fantastic. James Marsden, on the other hand, does a fine job as the cynical romantic interest. He has been on a role, having appeared in both Hairspray and Enchanted.

Bottomline. Enjoyable formula film has a slick look and goes down easy. It is not destined for greatness, but no film is. If you are looking for an enjoyable little film this should fill the bill, just keep your expectations low.

Mildly Recommended.


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