It's hard to know which is more disheartening: the concept behind Bride Wars, or the fact that its female creators and stars seem to somehow think it's empowering. A movie in which two women turn into illogical banshees the moment they become engaged, ignoring loved ones and even their fiances in the pursuit of their perfect day, Bride Wars takes every ugly stereotype about women and weddings and dumbs them down even further. The insulting script by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael is directed with an overbearing hand by Gary Winick, making the whole thing not just screechy and cliched, but boring to boot.
And for this, the generously talented Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway go through so much humiliation. Hudson is Liv, a high-powered attorney used to getting everything she wants, and Hathaway is Emma, a schoolteacher who makes a great doormat. It's unclear why they would be friends, or why anyone would want to be friends with them, really, but each has landed their own generic, Ken doll fiance (seriously, I spent the entire movie failing to tell the two beaus apart). The guys clearly don't know what they're in for, but don't seem to care, as Liv and Emma track down the city's best wedding planner (Candice Bergen) to ask for, nay, demand, their dream weddings at the Plaza..
The wedding planner is supposedly the best in the business, but apparently lacks basic knowledge of Excel, as she books both Liv and Emma's weddings for the same date at the Plaza. The girls, who planned to be each others maids of honor, are faced with a choice. Work it out like adults, or participate in an escalating series of pranks that will provide easy laughs while eventually leading to some rote lessons about the meaning of friendship.
You've doubtlessly seen where this goes from here-- one bride is sabotaged by candy and blue hair, the other gets an orange spray tan and a baffling dance lesson. There's a drunk dancing scene thrown in apparently for the benefit of the boyfriends dragged to the theater, and a gaggle of supporting characters who are either so jealous of Emma and Liv's pre-marital bliss that they eat themselves into oblivion, or so unhappy with their own marriages that they're already planning divorce. The options are grim, ladies.
Maybe it's the presence of Hathaway, who was part of the glorious wedding-centric movie Rachel Getting Married, that makes me think of all the ways in which this could have become a real movie, not a fundamental embarrassment. The themes and the messages of the movie, which are shoehorned in at moments when the more vulnerable audience members might cry, actually bring up some interesting topics-- when it's appropriate to stick up for yourself, for example, or what qualities of a relationship might make an actual marriage work. But this is a movie about weddings, not marriages, and nothing and nobody in Bride Wars seems capable of seeing beyond the white poofy dress and all the onlookers and the day that's about me me me!
The best we can hope for is that Bride Wars will be the last gasp of the wedding-industrial complex, as self-obsessed brides-to-be finally take a look at their dwindling bank accounts and realize that a happy marriage is possible without $4,000 in flowers to precede it. Because in these tough financial times, there's no reason to spend anything like that on a wedding-- or, come to think of it, the price of a movie ticket on Bride Wars.