Monday, March 2, 2009

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Formulaic but Fun: 27 Dresses

Think of your favorite movie villain. Darth Vader. The Wicked Witch of the West. Matthew McConaughey. The greatest villains are the ones you absolutely love to hate.
This is just one of a few delightful emotions that you’ll experience when you watch 27 Dresses. The story follows a fairly formulaic and predictable plotline, but at the end of the movie you’ll want to cheer anyway. The very fitting cast embellishes and personalizes your romantic comedy paradigm. From the trailers and TV commercials, you know that this is the movie version of “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” But Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman and Judy Greer (among others) take an otherwise generic script and make it their own. You can get this story with any number of actors, but you can’t get 27 Dresses without Heigl, Marsden and the gang.
It’s been a few days since I’ve seen 27 Dresses, and the character I remember the most is Tess (played by Akerman), the oblivious and selfish kid sister of Heigl’s character, Jane. Tess is the girl all the guys want (at least what the one-dimensional guys from romantic comedies want), including Jane’s object of affection, George (played to the utmost cuteness and dimwittedness by Edward Burns). Tess overworks her charming yet empty appeal to hoodwink George all the way to engagement. Jane has to swerve in and out of Tess’ lies to George as she maneuvers her way to bridesmaid dress #28. “When will Jane go berserk?” you ask yourself. You already went berserk a long time ago, but waiting for Jane to react is what makes the movie fun.
(Question for the class: Is the Edward Burns character supposed to typify real life? Are guys in real life actually supposed to like the ditzy platinum blondes with the raccoon eye shadow? Or do these naïve guys keep showing up in chick flicks because girls are just afraid that guys like the Vogue magazine type? Talk amongst yourselves.)
The concern with reveling in such an evil and conniving character is that a deserving comeuppance will never come. (One example: Professor Dolores Umbridge in the book version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.) Lucky for us, Tess is cathartically cut down to size. But, interesting for us, there’s a moment where the audience almost sympathizes with Tess. It’s a lot like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Andie finds out that Miranda is on the verge of another divorce. You almost feel for her…until her next backstab. Tess, unlike Miranda, does undergo a bit of pacification. But, thankfully, she is never fully redeemed before the fade to black.
Tess isn’t the only reason to watch 27 Dresses. Marsden plays Kevin, the token dreamboat who stands heads and shoulders above the one-dimensional guys like George. Kevin is a New York Post reporter on the marriage beat, who writes such sweet and romantic descriptions of the extravaganzas he attends but exudes a cynical, faithless shell. Is he just bluffing? Which is the real Kevin? The romantic or the cynic? Whatever he’s doing, it aggravates Jane. This, of course, means she will confess her undying love for him one minute before the final credits roll. It’s a standard annoyed-at-first-sight story. But Marsden is still entertaining enough. (Be sure to enjoy his rendition of “Bennie and the Jets.”)
Without ever seeing 27 Dresses, you could probably fill in most of the blanks for yourself. But not as hilariously or amusingly as this cast does. Akerman, Marsden and all the rest make this movie well worth your time and a treat for both you and your date.
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