Back in May a little film starring a mostly female cast and led by Kristen Wiig hit theaters and became the unexpected breakout comedic hit of the summer. Marketed to audiences as a The Hangover for women, Bridesmaids won favor not just with critics but with movie goers who stuffed theaters for months ballooning the film’s total domestic box office to almost $170 million. What follows is a dissenting opinion.
In the past, along with my Best of the Year list, I’ve occasionally done a list for the worst films I’ve been forced to sit through as a film critic over the same year. Rather than do that for 2011 I decided to take a look at films which generated discussion and praise and find the one which rankled me the most. There was one clear winner.
Let me start out by saying I like Kristen Wiig, not just on Saturday Night Live but in movie roles such as Adventureland and Whip It. Although my sense of humor doesn’t always jive with hers (several of her SNL sketches fall flat, but that has more to do with the uneven writing of sketch comedy shows than her on-screen prescence), I’ll admit she’s a funny lady who appears, from all accounts, to be a lovely human being.
However, that doesn’t give her an automatic pass. Nor does the fact that she was able to put together a film made up of an entirely female cast without a true star to help push it through development. Is that commendable? You’re damn right it is. You know what would be even more commendable? If the movie had been funny.
Bridesmaids stars Wiig as a single unhappy woman in her 30’s whose only real enjoyment comes by living vicariously through her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). When Lillian gets engaged Annie (Wiig) must face the fact that her life will change as well as deal with the competing interest of another of Lillian’s bridesmaids, Helen (Rose Byrne), who it turns out is the trophy wife of the boss of Lillian’s fiance (Tim Heidecker). From this limited amount of information I’ve seen enough romcoms to know exactly where Bridesmaids is headed and I could guess (correctly) how painful the journey would be.
What follows is your basic romcom zaniness as Wiig keeps making a bigger and bigger fool of herself to combat Helen’s attempts to pry the Maid of Honor role from Annie’s cold dead hand. Of course, as happens in films like this, no one else seems to notice what’s really going on. The blame always falls on Annie causing a rift between the best friends that only a last-minute-wedding-saving-heart-to-heart can save.
There are subplots involving a cop (Chris O’Dowd) as possible romantic interest for Annie, as well as the unfulfilling dead-end relationship with the vapid Ted (Jon Hamm, hamming it up as the token selfish bastard male romcoms can’t seem to live without). Although each presents some mildly diverting moments, neither one opens up story possibilities which lead anywhere interesting. What’s more troubling, however, are the crazy situations that Annie keeps finding herself in while trying to combat both Helen and her own insecurities.
Despite its attempts to present an engaging story too much of the film feels like sketches (either too risque or not quite good enough to make it into Saturday Night Live) shoved together with only a few moments of genuine character peeking through before the next wacky series of events is set in motion.
We get everything from explosive food poisoning to misuse of medication causing craziness on a plane to a pair of truly painful dueling wedding toasts. The result of this means the heart of the story, two friends dealing with an event that will fundamentally alter their friendship, is buried under a shitload of “humor” that simply isn’t worth digging through.
Most of the supporting characters are one-note. I’ve never been a fan of Rudolph who isn’t asked to do much here until the film’s final act. The bridesmaids can best be described as the fat raunchy one (Melissa McCarthy), the bitch (Byrne), and the ones which leave no impression whatsoever (Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey). You have to hand it to Wiig for giving her female co-stars such strong roles. Oh wait, no, you really don’t.
Unlike Jason Reitman‘s Young Adult which embraces the dark comedy centered around the trainwreck of its leading lady, Bridesmaids throws in the towel unwilling to alienate viewers by becoming too dark (it even falls back on a sappy happy ending which we see coming long before the movie’s protagonist). Annie isn’t really an awful person, and most of here mistakes are honest ones. It’s only the contrived situations which keep showing her in such a poor light to everyone but the audience.
The film doesn’t even have the guts to allow the film’s villain to embrace her role. In fact, in the final act Byrne’s character is humanized to such an extent that the structure of the story we’ve been painfully forced to accept falls apart before our eyes with nothing to take its place. She too, it seems is nothing more than a victim of circumstance. Gosh, gee willikers, I guess no one’s to blame and we can all get along. Somebody fucking shoot me.
All that said, most of the movies rough edges could have been made passable (though not enjoyable) if the film had simply been funny. It’s not. At all. Not even in an uncomfortable or shocking way. I’m willing to admit that humor is a subjective thing, but I’ve spent funnier (and far less painful) hours in a dentist chair. I think I might have cracked a smile once or twice at the level of antics on display, but I can’t remember letting out a single laugh during the film’s excruciatingly two-hour long running time.
Over-hyped and under-performing, the film is painfully unfunny. I’m not sure that Bridesmaids is the worst film of 2011, but its certainly not from lack of trying by squeezing in overused, cliched sketch comedy moments and romcom trademarks and trying to pass them off as a honest story about real friendship. I know others may love it, but for me Bridesmaids earns the title of The Most Overrated Movie of 2011.