27 Dresses
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27 Dresses

There is an old expression "always a bridesmaid; never a bride’ that has been taken to the ultimate level in the romantic comedy ’27 Dresses’. Here the main character is a young woman who has gathered a closet full of bride’s maid dresses. Guys may not immediately understand some of the basic premises of the movie. Since I married a woman with two sisters, I remember our wedding where my sensible, intelligent bride chose dresses that were pretty but topped her sisters and friends with hats that seemed right out of an old movie. Yes, guys, women will often lose some of their sensibilities when it comes dressing their friends as bridesmaids. Okay, this movie is close to the definition of a ‘chick flick’ but since the lead character is Katherine Heigl husbands and boyfriends will not kick up too much of a fuss when asked to see it. One little tip though fellows, if you are in a relationship heading for an engagement steer clear of this movie. Your girlfriend will be ring shopping before the end credits roll. To be fair here, the film is entertaining even for those of the species burdened with a ‘Y’ chromosome. It is light, funny and enjoyable. Let’s face it you made the woman in your life watch that action flick with you so since you must return the favor you might as well watch a chick flick you will enjoy; this is just that film.

As with any film, it is important to put yourself into the mindset of the target demographic. This can be a painful experience with the ton of teen oriented horror flicks that abound, but in this case, it was easy. It is a film for women, and when considered in that fashion it works exceptionally well. It does have more than its share of cliché moments, but that is just part of the romantic comedy format. The script was provided by Aline Brosh McKenna who previously wrote the very funny movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ as well as the less successful ‘Laws of Attraction’ and ‘Three to Tango.' She is a highly intelligent woman and according to her bio graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. Her script reflects this wit and intelligence far better than most romcoms can manage. In too many of the members of this genre, the male characters are cartoonish dolts. McKenna can write a male lead and make him realistic. This film is dry in its wit underplaying the humor so when the more slapstick moments do occur they are a change instead of being over used. You can predict the ending about 15 minutes (or less) into the film. With a movie like this, it is the fun of the ride that is important, and McKenna’s writing provides the right trail.

Directing this film was Anne Fletcher. Her only previous time in the director’s chair was a drama with dancing and music as part of the plot. This is new territory for Fletcher, and she rises to the occasion nicely. While this film is not perfect, it does have the ability to laugh at itself. Fletcher appears to know that this is a light flick and never goes over to the pretension of reaching for more. Some films are not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed, and this is a very good example. The pacing is spot on for this type of film. The premise is gotten out of the way rapidly allowing the second act to concentrate on the romantic entanglements and complexities that naturally ensue. The third act is typical of the genre letting the situation look bleak until the very last minute, happiness wins and the credits roles. A lot of credit has to be given to the head costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas. She took on the arduous task of designing 27 dresses that look bad on Heigl. The titular dresses range from several ‘Gone with the Wind’ types to Goth, cotton candy, western and some for the life of me I couldn’t understand at all.

Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl) has trying to balance participation in two nearly simultaneous weddings of her friends. She is almost stomped by the head long rush to catch the all important bridal bouquet. The only thing that holds Kate together in all the surrounding matrimonial madness is an experience. Jane has been a bridesmaid 27 times and had the dresses to prove it. While looking for a cab, she is assisted by a handsome young man, Kevin Doyle (James Marsden). The share a cab and he takes her home. He notices that she left her day planner in the cab. As any guy knows this is Kismet, a beautiful woman leaving her planner opens up a window into who she is and more importantly a perfect excuse to give her a call and see her again. James is a writer using the nom de plume of Malcolm Doyle, who just happens to be Jane’s favorite author. Naturally, he writers wedding announcements, something Jane reads daily. While looking through her planner, he sees her constant attendance in weddings. He is sure that a piece about the perpetual bridesmaid is just having his career needs. In any rom-com you need the leading man to deceive the leading lady in some innocent fashion; here James decides to keep his writing alias to himself. Every flick like this needs some romantic triangle. Here it is due to Jane’s deep crush on her boss George (Edward Burns). Unfortunately, he doesn’t see her in that way.

Jane is set for another wedding some, her friend at work Gina (Krysten Ritter). That night Gina has an engagement party. Since Jane’s younger sister, Tess (Malin Akerman) is in town, she comes along. Over a period only seen in this type of film Tess starts to date George, and soon the two on them are headed down the aisle. Deception number two comes in with Tess and George. Tess is the complete opposite of George. He is a vegetarian, enjoys the outdoors and loves animals. For Tess, her only love is to have them as part of an indoor meal. As the day of the wedding approaches Tess is at a loss for what to do and takes Jane’s wedding planner, one in the works for most of her life, and decides to use it for herself. While all this is going on Kevin is working on his article using Jane as the subject.

Most of the reason the film works better than the pack of romantic comedies is Ms. Heigl. She is a return to old Hollywood in every possible sense. She is what a star of this type of film should be. Heigl is glamorous on the red carpet, free of arrests and DUI convictions and has both a hit TV series and growing list of films of this sort. Heigl is fun to watch with her natural sense of comedy. She gets some great little one liner jokes to deliver and does it in such a way that you will laugh. She is the star but allows her cast mates time of their own in the spotlight. James Marsden is overall flat in his role as Kevin. The character had an interesting enough back story, but Marsden is better suited for super hero roles that comedy. Malin Akerman is jutted over the top enough to bolster the performance of Heigl. They are excellent together as completely different sisters.

The DVD comes from 20th Century Fox, and they know how to master a disc technically. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is excellent with a perfect color balance. The audio is in Dolby 5.1 using a nicely robust sound field. There are some extras provided mostly promoting other new DVDs. The one that matters most for the ladies will be the look at the design of the infamous 27 dresses. Making so many horrible dresses for a woman who looks great in a sweatshirt and old jeans had to be a real chore. This is not the best film around. It is not even the best example of Heigl’s talent but is a fun date flick. Just make sure you see it with a woman you are already engaged or married to unless you plan to pop the question after seeing it.

Posted 03/23/08            08/06/2017

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