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(2011) (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph) (R)

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Comedy: Unmarried and approaching 40, a woman sees her life unravel after her best friend gets engaged and asks her to be the maid of honor.
Annie's (KRISTEN WIIG) life is falling apart. Her bakery shop recently closed. Her boyfriend has dumped her. Her car is a clunker. She's struggling to make ends meet. And she's now dating Ted (JON HAMM), a complete cad who only wants sex from her. The one good thing in her life is Lillian (MAYA RUDOLPH), a lifelong best friend who has been with her through thick and thin.

Lillian, though, surprises Annie one night by announcing her engagement. She then names Annie her maid of honor, which immediately brings Annie into conflict with Helen (ROSE BYRNE), a wealthy new friend of Lillian's who is an expert at throwing lavish parties and get-togethers. Helen is especially impressive to the three other bridesmaids: the uncouth Megan (MELISSA McCARTHY); the unhappy Rita (WENDI McLENDON-COVEY); and the uncomplicated Becca (ELLIE KEMPER).

No matter what Annie does, her plans always go awry. The Brazilian restaurant she picks for a ladies' lunch gives each of the women food poisoning, which ends up having dire consequences at their dress fitting. An airplane trip to Las Vegas ends before it begins after Annie mixes liquor and pills to calm her fear of flying. And that's to say nothing of the complete mental breakdown Annie suffers at the bridal shower. Her only lifeline is Rhodes (CHRIS O'DOWD), a good-hearted cop who falls for her nuttiness.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Judd Apatow-produced comedies tend to throw a LOT at the wall to see what shticks. In such cases, as "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," the ratio of hits to misses (laughs to groans, really) is quite high and you leave the theater chuckling for days afterward. In other cases, such as "Funny People" and "Year One," that balance is either off or their bloat is just unforgivable. "Bridesmaids," thankfully, is one of the Apatow Factory's better, funnier efforts.

The key this time is in the harmonious collaboration of multiple players. Star and co-writer Kristen Wiig will get a lot of the credit and deservedly so. She carries the film with her lead performance as a down-on-her-luck, late-thirty-something Milwaukee woman whose bakery business has gone under, her boyfriend has dumped her, her car is constantly on the verge of giving out, and now she has to deal with her lifelong best friend getting married before she does. Maya Rudolph plays the best friend, Lillian, and the chemistry these two performers honed over the years on "Saturday Night Live" serves the film remarkably well.

Apatow and director Paul Feig have done an excellent job over the years, putting together combinations of actors who feel like they've known each other forever. As the two primary creative forces behind the late, great "Freaks and Geeks" TV show that ran on NBC for 18 episodes a decade ago, they have managed to use that show as a springboard and launch pad for such talents as James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel. Here, the two men draw on a wealth of underused female comic talent who have been in each other's orbit for some time to create a female buddy comedy that should appeal to both sexes if marketed properly.

In addition to Wiig and Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy of "Gilmore Girls" and "Mike and Molly" is very funny as the groom's uncouth, often rude, but ultimately straight-shooting sister. Wendi McLendon-Covey of "Reno 911!" and the Groundlings comedy troupe shines in a smaller role as a profane bridesmaid who despises her kids and yearns for the debauchery of her naughty college years. The flipside of her is the innocent, Disney-loving bridesmaid played by Ellie Kemper of "The Office" who loosens up in unpredictable ways when she gets a little whiskey in her.

For those who prefer their comedies not to be R-rated with vomit, diarrhea, sex, and genitalia jokes, this isn't for you. Thankfully, this is a script penned by Wiig and Annie Mumolo. So the female-heavy cast don't walk through the film saying things that sound like glorified, juxtaposed male dialogue. The film is smart when it comes to the interlocking relationships a group of women often share and how a stressful thing such as an upcoming wedding and everything that leads up to it -- the engagement party, the bachelorette party, the ladies' lunches, the dress fittings, -- can cause nerves to fray and manners to lapse.

The movie, though, ultimately belongs to Wiig more than anyone else. Her Annie is just a mess. And the more things go wrong in her life, the funnier her exasperation and unpredictability becomes. The film features at least four major comic set pieces that are quite funny, and Wiig is at the center of each of them. At 125 minutes, the film is at least 15 minutes too long, and several side characters could have been edited out entirely (Wiig's unfunny British roommates, for instance) and not missed at all. At this point, Apatow and Co. have final edit on all their properties, and that's not always a good thing. DVDs routinely give Director's Cuts with extra footage added in. I'd love to see a cut of "Bridesmaids" at closer to 105 or 110 minutes.

Fortunately, the emotional investment is there, so it's fairly easy to stay with the film through its less tight stretches. This is not a lazy movie. It feels like it's been made by people who cared about the final product and who are hungry to prove themselves in the land of Sandra Bullock and Cameron Diaz. I think Wiig, Rudolph, and crew have succeeded. I rate it a very solid 7.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed May 10, 2011 / Posted May 13, 2011

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