It's clear "Bridesmaids" got greenlit as "'The Hangover' for chicks," but to condemn it as such would be a disservice. The latest Judd Apatow Family Production is a savvy, character-driven comedy worthy of commendation in its own right. SNL's Kristen Wiig stars, having co-wrote the screenplay with actress Annie Mumolo. In a culture with great reverence for the pomp and circumstance of marriage, the pair dispenses a generous allocation of banana peels along the length of the aisle.
It may not make for the most intellectual humor, but "Bridesmaids" thrives on broad comedy by way of endearing characters and vibrant performances. Wiig plays Annie, the broke proprietor of a failed bakery whose best friend (Maya Rudolph) is engaged. Named maid of honor at the upcoming wedding, Annie is soon overwhelmed with all the inherited responsibility. She spars with bitchy perfectionist Helen (Rose Byrne) over bridal shower themes, bachelorette party locales, and naturally, bridesmaid dresses.
Though the cast is rounded out by Wendi McLendon-Covey of "Reno 911" fame and Ellie Kemper from the American "Office," the real standout is "Gilmore Girls'" Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the 180-degree antithesis of class. Heavyset, hilarious, and not the least bit demure, she easily walks away with the movie. Whether she's accusing a seatmate of being an air marshal incognito, or bent over a sink in a compromising situation, the funniest moments in "Bridesmaids" are almost exclusively hers.
Not that "Bridesmaids" has any shortage of funny moments. Some scenarios work better than others however, and at two plus hours, it's hard not to notice where it could use a trim. For all the positives Apatow doubtless brings to the production, he is a poor role model when it comes to maintaining an appropriate run time. Director Paul Feig is more directly to blame for not axing the most superfluous and least funny bits; Annie's portly English roommates spring to mind as characters whose absence might make the film leaner in more ways than one.
The lack of focus keeps "Bridesmaids" from achieving real staying power. Subplots like Annie's relationship with an Irish cop (Chris O'Dowd) — amusing though they may be —consume too great a slice of our time, and dilute what makes the simple premise so strong. Feig and Wiig are firing on all cylinders during the ensemble scenes, and I'm confident a better 90-minute cut exists somewhere in the folds of this wedding comedy, which has as many frills and puffs as even the gaudiest bride to be.
"Bridesmaids" may not be one to have and to hold until death do you part, but it's still a saucy affair. Wiig plays a loveable loser and surrounds herself with some seriously funny ladies. Their performances alone carry most scenes. Coupled with a refreshing refusal to cater exclusively to the sense of humor of teenage boys, the film suffers only in setting itself too high a standard and failing to continually exceed it.
Though the output is sadly less than the sum of its parts, there is enough great, boisterous energy on hand to make "Bridesmaids" worth checking out, gender regardless. It's leagues ahead of the competition when it comes to personality, and its savvy, character-driven comedy could actually teach a thing of two to those clowns behind the "'Bridesmaids' for bros."