Wedding-themed comedy starring two SNL veterans takes the cake
Itâs been called âThe Hangover for girls,â but that falsely supposes two things.
Primarily, it insinuates that female audiences are somehow incapable of fully enjoying or appreciating Todd Phillipsâ 2009 morning-after comedy about a trio of friends trying to piece together the events of the previous nightâs drunken bender of a bachelor party. But secondly, and perhaps even more unfair still, by defining Bridesmaids in terms of the movie thatâs apparently its male equivalent positions Bridesmaids as a poor (wo)manâs version of another film from the get-go and does a fine job of setting it up for inferiority.
Bridesmaids should be treated as a comedy in its own right, because despite whatever similarities it may have with The Hangover â which, surprisingly enough, did not invent gleeful crudity or marital themes â it really is a standalone film.
Co-written by Annie Mumolo and Saturday Night Liveâs current greatest hope, Kristen Wiig, Â Bridesmaids follows childhood best friends Annie (Wiig) and Lillian (fellow SNL veteran Maya Rudolph) as they muck through meaningless dead-end encounters and worryingly stagnant relationships, respectively, in a recession-throttled Milwaukee.
But when Lillian receives a proposal from her longtime boyfriend Dougie in nearby Chicago, Annie loses her partner in commiseration and her failures in love and business â the would-be entrepreneurâs upstart bakery went out of business not too long after opening â are thrown into even starker contrast. As Lillianâs maid of honor appointee, responsibility falls to Annie to plan the events leading up to the wedding, but everything from the bridesmaidsâ dresses to the Las Vegas bachelorette party getaway has a price tag, and thatâs the first thing cash-strapped Annie makes note of.
Competition enters the equation when Lillianâs new friend Helen (Rose Byrnes) makes it clear that the only thing sheâs better at than planning parties and making arrangements is inducing inferiority complexes. Gorgeous, graceful, well connected and dizzyingly rich, Helen is always waiting in the wings to swoop in and don the mantle of maid of honor at a momentâs notice. The latent animosity and outright competitiveness between Annie and Helen is instantaneous, but it slowly comes to a head over the course of Bridesmaidsâ 125-minute runtime.
Having to give top-billing to a pair of SNL comics whose stints on the variety show occurred well after its widely acknowledged heyday might seem to be a kiss of death, but the noticeable lack of high-profile star-power doesnât appear to have held the movie back: The film pulled in $26.2 million in its debut weekend, opening second only to Thor.
Lesser-known television actresses Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!), Ellie Kemper (The Office) and Melissa McCarthy (most recently seen on CBSâ Mike & Molly, but perhaps best remembered as Sookie on Gilmore Girls) delivered consistently scene-stealing performances and gave testament to the fact that the Will Ferrells and Zach Galifianakises of the world donât have a monopoly on brash, crude and booze-fueled humor in Hollywood. A scene portraying the girlfriendsâ gastrointestinal duress in a tony downtown bridal shop â in the wake of a lunch visit to a hole-in-the-wall Brazilian restaurant, of course â was both the most memorable part of the movie and a way to showcase the supporting actressesâ comedic chops.
Wiigâs Annie would press the limits of audiencesâ sympathies if it werenât for the unmistakable charm she brings to every role. Her character time and again returns to Jon Hammâs Ted, an unrepentant womanizer and general slimeball who at one point dumps Annie by saying âYouâre not my No. 3 anymore!â as he speeds off. But Annieâs stock eventually rises in the audienceâs estimation when she begins to take note of Rhodes, a tail light-obsessed cop with an Irish accent.
Whether intentionally or not, a number of Wiigâs SNL creations creep into her portrayal of Annie. The brief lapses â the moment when Annie sees Lillianâs engagement ring for the first time, she has a mild freak-out not unlike her character Sue in the now-infamous âSurprise Partyâ sketch â function like Easter eggs for attentive Saturday Night Live fans who are paying close attention.
Director Paul Feig has directorial credits for episodes of Arrested Development, The Office, 30 Rock and Freaks and Geeks, producer Judd Apatow has had a hand in nearly every one of the decadeâs most successful comedies (Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express) and the Saturday Night Live presence has already been established, so itâs clear that the comedy credentials were in place for Bridesmaids to become the success it is.
The most important voices in the filmmaking process, however, are, of course, writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Their strong and unique voices might not represent the expectation of women writers, but the pair pull off a raucously raunchy good time with Bridesmaids.