A film review by Craig J. Koban

 

BRIDE WARS j

2009, PG, 89 mins.

 

Liv: Kate Hudson / Emma: Anne Hathaway / Marion: Candice Bergen / Deb: Kristen Johnston / Daniel: Steve Howey

Directed by Gary Winick / Written by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June D. Raphael

Do you hate those pre-movie advertisements as much as I do?

Not the movie previews, mind you, but the actual commercials that theatres often show right before the coming attractions, which only makes the journey towards the actual feature film all the more arduous.  

Here me out.

Well, there is one in particular for Coke that drives me a bit nuts.  In it we see a man that is profusely sweating in his non-air-conditioned dwelling.  He is also apparently about to collapse at any moment due to thirst.  So, he leaves his home – which appears to be in some non-specific European town – and he then engages in a mammoth and incalculably long journey to find a convenience store than sells Coke so he can quench his craving for a carbonated beverage.  He buys one, guzzles it up, and finally gives a euphoric, lip-smacking “Aaahhhh” and then walks off in a state of zombified glee.

Now, on what plane of normal reality does this ad exist on?  Really?  Is it leading me to believe that there are still places on this earth where an individual would have to trek several miles out of his way to get his hands on a Coke?  The the product is so obviously  ubiquitous on earth that seeing this man in the ad go to great, Herculean distances to secure one seemed kind of inane, if not unbelievable. 

Now…these feelings for this ad sum up what precisely what I thought of BRIDE WARS.  It is the very epitome of what I like to call a bizarre, “Alternate Earth” movie, mostly because the events and characters in the film bare absolutely no resemblance to anything that would occur on the planet I reside on.  Characters act on impulses that border on fanatical and obsessive, situations are spawned on disbelievingly idiotic and contrived pretences, and solutions to all of the dilemmas in the film would easily be solved if the entire enterprise was not smothered in a haze of the “Idiot Plot Syndrome,” a movie rule which indicates a movie containing “a plot that has problems that could be solved almost instantaneously if all of the characters in the film were not idiots.” 

I now pronounce this film "dead on arrival.

I have rarely seen a comedy that has been so appallingly absent-minded and ridiculously bone-headed.  Sometimes certain films can’t really help themselves by devolving into banal mediocrity and groan inducing triteness, but BRIDE WARS is kind of indefensible, perhaps because we are forced to see the great, luminous, and talented Anne Hathaway – coming off one of the most assured and powerful performances of 2008 in her tour de force work in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED – utterly let herself succumb to this film’s humiliatingly shallow story.  Then there is Kate Hudson’s appearance here, which is not quite as scandalous, seeing as she has tarnished her once good reputation years ago with one annoying romantic comedic performance after another.  My God, but it sure feels like her stellar, career launching performance in ALMOST FAMOUS occurred…like..forever ago in 2000.  BRIDE WARS just made me squirm and it instilled in me eelings of sadness.  It’s sad to see actresses reduced to outdated female stereotypes.   

Oh…back to the “Idiot Plot” diseased film.  The setup is that Emma (Hathaway) and Liv (Hudson) have been the strongest of BFFs since their childhood days in New Jersey, where they once glimpsed a wedding at the Plaza Hotel and have forever since wanted one for their very own.  The two grew up and beyond their recreations of their weddings in their attics; Anne went on to become a middle school teacher and Liv became a lawyer (Hudson never once seems convincing in this occupation).  Both are still very close and both have live-in boyfriends that look like they were hastily grabbed off of the generic casting sessions of a 90210-esque spin-off TV series; these men are essentially personality-free drones here at service of the Idiot Plot.

It soon becomes clear that both ladies have – yup – been proposed to and both rush to visit their idol, a ridiculously famous and self-important wedding designer named Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen, hitting the only reasonably decent comic notes here), who has made a business empire of giving women their dream weddings at the Plaza Hotel. Faster than you can say “Till death do us part,” horror strikes the pair when they realize that – nooooooooo!!! – they are both scheduled to have their nuptials on the same day due to a scheduling glitch.   

Now, on this film’s alternate earth, there is absolutely no way whatsoever for the women to revise their plans and come to a reasonable solution to their problem (like, for cripe’s sake, have their weddings someplace else and on different days…perhaps…?).  Nope, Liv and Emma - despite being fairly well off and adjusted career women that you think would be mature and respectful – are instead reduced to screaming, tantrum throwing, and hopelessly infantile prima donnas that proceed in the film to act like spoiled and egomaniacal five-year-old girls.   The women, if they lived on my planet, could have engaged in a series of cordial and compassionate discussions as to how to solve their mutual dilemma, but they opt to engage in a series of revenge schemes against the other because, yup, neither is willing to give up the Plaza wedding day for the other.  The film then spirals downward towards a series of sabotage missions committed by both women, which involve things like silly gossip mongering, viscous verbal attacks, and – in would-be funny moments – scenes involving deep orange suntans, blue-dyed hair jobs, improper fitting wedding attire, and embarrassing drunken video footage.  Ho-ho.  Oh…there is also a catfight.  Uh huh...this movie definitely earns the "Wars" in its title.

When did “chick flicks” begin to have such an alarming condescension of their target audience?  It’s kind of frightening to see films like this get advertised to a largely female demographic and then present women characters that are shown as rabid, feral, Tiffany gift box hungry materialistic dogs.  Why would a film like BRIDE WARS even for one solitaire second think that any freethinking woman or man would remotely care for Liv and Emma?  The lazy writing here is so perfunctory, so misjudged, and so irreproachably dopey and shrill that any attempt to humanize these bubble-brained bridezillas from hell is gone.  And.. seriously…in our current global economic recession, is it really amusing to see two hateful, spiteful, and obnoxiously privileged Manhattanites engage in shrieking and abhorrent matrimonial materialism at every waking moment?  These women don’t deserve love…nor a lifetime of happiness with the men in their lives.  

They are maladjusted snobs that belong in straightjackets. 

And speaking of the men in the film…don’t worry…BRIDE WARS is an equal opportunity offender.  Both genders come off as having zero personality, zero intelligence, zero depth, and fail to act or say anything compelling for fear of making the characters appear realistic.  The male suitors in this film seem befuddled by the insane antics of their respective brides-to-be (on one positive, then men here are at least presented as being the most grounded; sorry if that came off as sexist, but it’s true), but they do very little to actual stop the lecherous actions of the women.  These would-be-grooms are not so much interesting and likeable personas as they are hostages of the Idiot Plot.  If the women come off as mean-spirited, salivating, and vengeful cretins, then the men equally come off as spineless and undetermined slackers that seem to care little that they are about to marry women that both have one foot in the looney bin. 

I don’t want to write about this movie anymore, other that to say that it was nice to see the acerbic comic timing of Candice Bergen on screen (she is the only classy element to this classless enterprise).  Beyond her snarky and wonderfully duplicitous wedding planner, BRIDE WARS feels about as earth bound in terms of logic and verisimilitude as STAR WARS does.  What we are left with is essentially a 90-minute sitcom that is not even worthy of prime time television standards; a banal and cringe worthy story of two advantaged, long-time friends that turn into hair-grabbing monsters that run amok in a disastrously unfunny script involving consumerism and wedding planning gone horribly afoul.  Am I just naive, or are all women (as this film thinks) more in love with getting their "perfect" weddings than the men they're going to wed?  It’s just another lamentable example in a list of many chick flicks (like, most recently, HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU) that…paradoxically enough…treat women like moronic, despotic, and superficial simpeltons.  The fact that it took three -  count 'em, three - screenwriters to churn out this script makes the film all the more inexcusable.

BRIDE WARS is a comedy that makes some imbecilic and catastrophic errors: it assumes that we will laugh along all the way through it; it assumes that we will buy into its preposterous premise, and it assumes that humiliating exceptionally gifted actresses like Anne Hathaway for an hour and a half would be enjoyable.  And was Hathaway trying to emulate Eddie Murphy here for pulling a full-on NORBIT by following up her Oscar nominated turn in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED for a piece of comedic dribble (remember Murphy's fall from grace post-DREAMGIRLS)?  Seems like it.  I guess that I am less offended by Hudson's inclusion here, seeing as she has committed career suicide years ago (she has not had a invigorating performance in nearly a decade), but her shortsightedness shows an stupefying lack of tact: she also served as producer for the film, thinking that this story needed to be told.

Sigh.  Just save yourself the time and heartache and send your RSVP to the filmmakers and inform them that your attendance to BRIDE WARS will not, in any shape or form, be required.

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