[Screen It]

(2009) (Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway) (PG)

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Comedy: Two women, best friends since childhood, become competitive adversaries when their weddings end up scheduled on the same day at the same place and neither offers to change their plans.
Ever since being entranced by young girls attending a wedding at New York City's Plaza Hotel, Liv (KATE HUDSON) and Emma (ANNE HATHAWAY) have dreamed of having their respective big days there on a Saturday in June. While middle school teacher Emma is something of a pushover -- always allowing coworker Deb (KRISTEN JOHNSTON) to get her to cover for her -- and thus patiently awaits live-in boyfriend Fletcher (CHRIS PRATT) to propose, lawyer Liv is more direct with her boyfriend, Daniel (STEVE HOWEY), demanding an engagement.

That's especially true after Emma ends up engaged first, with Liv then joining her, and the two waste no time in meeting with legendary wedding planner Marion St. Claire (CANDICE BERGEN). The two young women are ecstatic and plan to be each other's maid of honor, but a snafu results in both being scheduled for the lone opening at the Plaza for a June wedding.

And from there, their friendship devolves into a competitive affair where both strive to grab that date and sabotage the other's nuptials. Accordingly, they need to find new matrons of honor, but have a hard time doing so, with Emma reluctantly asking Deb to be hers. Since Liv's brother, Nate (BRYAN GREENBERG), will be giving her away, she's stuck with asking her personal assistant at work, Kevin (MICHAEL ARDEN), to do the duties. With their big day quickly approaching, the two women pull out all of the stops to try to undermine the other's wedding.

OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
What is it about weddings that temporarily turn some women into completely different creatures? There's obviously the pressure for everything about the big day to be perfect, and often there's a great deal of money involved in trying to accomplish that and/or impress others. Even so, most everyone's now familiar with the term "bridezilla" that describes the fire-breathing monsters some turn into as the nuptials draw near.

Like their namesake, Godzilla, there's little that can be done to reign them in as they inflict their terror on family, friends, and anyone associated with putting on and pulling off the various aspects of the wedding. While there's little that's funny about such brides in real life, it's possible to make such actions humorous in a comedy, but only if handled just right.

With that in mind, those behind "Bride Wars" obviously thought that if one such woman might be hilarious, how about two? And to top it off, why not make them best friends who eventually end up at each other's throats when the day they've individually dreamed about their entire lives ends up on the same date, at the same venue?

That's the premise of this straight rather than romantic comedy from director Gary Winick and screenwriters Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael. Alas, what might have looked good on paper is decidedly less so in fleshed-out execution, as the dialogue is lame and schmaltzy rather than sharp and witty, the performances are mediocre at best, and the film's big selling point -- the competition and sabotage of the other's wedding plans and ceremony -- comes off as lame, uninspired and mostly laugh free.

The former delivers gems such as "Your wedding better watch it," "Your wedding can suck it," and "Your wedding will be huge, just like your ass at prom." I guess we've come a long way from the classic screwball comedies of old and their snappy and truly cutting lines. Meanwhile, is sending treats to one bride-to-be to fatten her up, the switching of skin and hair colors at tanning salons and beauty shops, and substituting a "zany" dance instructor (a la "Bring It On's" cheerleading coordinator, even including the same music) for the real thing the best Winick and his trio of scribes could concoct?

If one's going to assign part of their film's title with "war," that's what we want to see, a progressively escalating, pull out all of the stops battle to the end. Think of a wedding version of "The War of the Roses" and you'll get an idea of what might have made the film better, or at least funnier. Like that pic, this one incorporates a narrator (Candice Bergen as a wedding planner whose assistant's scheduling ineptitude sets off the conflict) who looks back on the proceedings, but even that plot device doesn't do anything to help the proceedings.

Yes, I realize that black comedies are hard to pull off (and generally don't rake in the bucks at the box office as they often tend to put off average viewers), but this is mediocre sitcom material at best. It's barely edgy, mildly zany, and possesses an undercurrent of "everything will turn out happily at the end" sentimentality that might make all of it palatable for most audiences, but robs it of the smarts, creativity, and humorous nastiness a tale like this so desperately needs.

While good in the right sort of roles, leads Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway feel shoehorned into the production, never coming off as comfortable in the parts, whether that's as wedding crazed best friends or eventual adversaries. The men in their lives (played by Chris Pratt and Steve Howey) barely register (after all, just like in real life, it's all about the brides), leaving Kristen Johnston and Michael Arden to try to take up the comedy slack. They get some amusing moments, but not enough to salvage the overall effort.

Although the film -- via the last scene -- threatens a sequel I've already deemed "Baby Wars," I simply wish more labor had been put into the conception and execution of the wedding battle leading up to it. "Bride Wars" rates as a 2.5 out of 10.

Reviewed January 6, 2009 / Posted January 9, 2009

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