Do you remember that time you were a bridesmaid in two weddings on the same night? You know, you had to drive in a cab back and forth between the two ceremonies and receptions, changing in the back of the cab and deducting $20 from the fare every time the cab driver tried to sneak a peak? You did it because your whole life is based on giving other people what they want at the expense of any type of life of your own. Oh wait, that’s something that only happens in unrealistic, predictable, formulaic romantic comedies like 27 Dresses.
Katherine Heigl, so appealing in the raunchy comedy Knocked Up, is again pretty appealing (how can she not be) as Jane Nichols, a New York bridesmaid. Well, that’s not her real job. Technically, she works as an assistant for the too good to be true George (Edward Burns), who she also loves passionately, although not passionately enough to mention it to him. Jane spends most weekends working to make her friends' weddings perfect as the ultimate helpful bridesmaid. Her closet is stuffed with the titular 27 bridesmaid dresses but, despite the exhortation of her slutty friend Casey (Judy Greer) to get a man, she sits alone on Sunday reading the wedding section of the New York Journal.
The columns she especially loves are written by Kevin (James Marsden) who Jane meets at a wedding. Unfortunately, they get off on the wrong foot and he fails to turn her head away from the oblivious George. George’s head does get turned by Jane’s sexy, self-centered sister Tess (Malin Akerman) and their whirlwind wedding plans are laid right on Jane’s able and helpful shoulders. If you can’t see where all this is going, then you haven’t seen enough chick flicks. Waiting for the sequence when Jane tries on all her dresses to the strains of an appropriate pop tune? It’s there. How about when Tess’s insensitivity finally pushes Jane too far? Check.
Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna apparently followed a “Romantic Comedies for Dummies” book in putting together the script. Nearly every scene, from the misunderstanding about what was left where by who, to the public proclamation of love in front of strangers, is ladled out in slick but heaping portions. The fact that Jane’s best friend is a bit of drunken whore who spouts cutting one liners or that a really hot, tall, sweet girl like Jane wouldn’t have a hundred guys sniffing at her door are par for the course in this often trodden over-plot. Whatever edge McKenna brought to her The Devil Wears Prada script is missing here or has been smoothed out to a crowd pleasing comfort level by director Anne Fletcher.
On the bright side, McKenna’s script does have more than a few funny lines for Heigl, Marsden, and Greer to toss out whenever you get that "been there, done that" feeling, which occurs every three to five minutes. Heigl and Marsden have good chemistry and, as noted earlier, she’s just a pleasant person to watch for 100 minutes. It’s easy work, if not particularly edifying. Akerman plays self-absorbed without stooping to truly bitchy, making her obvious u-turn redemption near the end not so jarring.
27 Dresses is not all bad, it’s just so by-the-numbers. The characters come across not as real people, but as people who exist solely to be in this movie. No one acts like these people act in real life. Instead, they do everything to move the plot forward and hit on all of those chick flick touchstones we’ve seen time and time again.
Guys may be fooled by Heigl’s performance in Knocked Up into thinking another comedy with her will be just as much fun. It’s not. The movie will be fun for romantic comedy junkies who can’t get enough of contrived plot coincidences and drunken renditions of “Bennie and the Jets.” Everyone else will get a few laughs and the vague feeling they’ve seen it all before - more than once.