It’s all too easy to label Kristen Wiig’s uproarious new comedy “Bridesmaids” the female equivalent of “The Hangover,” and it works for a quick comparison to sell the movie to a doubting friend. However, for accuracy’s sake (something of great consequence to me), let’s set the record straight. If you put “The Hangover” in a room with “27 Dresses” and allowed them to have a baby, and that baby turned out to be a girl, they would spawn “Bridesmaids.”
In other words, it’s a mixture of raunchy comedy that makes guys howl with the romantic comedy that makes girls swoon. Call it the best of both worlds, but such a combination doesn’t make the great equalizing date movie a great movie. The hybrid has a bit of an uneasy consistency, mainly because the belly laughs come to a screeching halt as soon as Wiig’s Irish-accented love interest comes on screen. Maybe it’s just the critic in me that’s rom-com weary or the male in me that doesn’t really care how the girl inevitably winds up with the guy, but the cliched romance could easily have been excised to maximize the laughs. (Not to mention it could cut down on the length, which is over 2 hours – epic length in terms of comedic films.)
So rather than endlessly compare “Bridesmaids” to “The Hangover,” I’ll let it stand on its own merit. The credit for the laughs, both shocking and sensitive, goes to star and co-writer Kristen Wiig, who after years of stealing the show finally gets to be the show. I feel very vindicated seeing her success after being a vocal advocate since 2005 when she joined “Saturday Night Live” and a written advocate ever since beginning to blog in 2009 (from “Extract” to “Whip It” to “Adventureland” to “Date Night” and even amidst the dung that was “MacGruber”). But this shouldn’t be about me; it should be about her. This is her big moment, and I hope she uses it to fly higher than previous female “SNL” comediennes like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Away from the censorship of late night NBC, Wiig is still totally in her element, leading an army of other funny women into territory usually reserved only for men with supreme confidence. Her script and her acting are both fully committed to every moment of the movie, both of which were necessary to make the gutsy material produce laughs. Wiig is also every bit as entertaining to watch as she is to listen to, as her facial animation and hyperaware posture are absolutely hysterical. When I’ve watched this movie a million times and can’t laugh at the overly quoted one-liners, I’m sure I’ll still get a big chuckle out of all the ridiculous physical nuances Wiig hid in her character.
While this is a star vehicle for Wiig, the movie is called “Bridesmaids,” so it would be imprudent to neglect the other four women serving in the wedding and the bride herself. Having so many central characters does sort of convolute the plot and mandates that each gets a little less exposure than desirable, but there’s truly a character for just about every woman. Fellow “SNL” veteran Maya Rudolph plays the stressed-out bride, Lillian, trying to enjoy the time leading up to her wedding. However, she’s forced to mediate the disputes of her most prominent bridesmaids, childhood friend Annie (Wiig) and her new friend with money Helen (Rose Byrne). Their vying for power leads to a lot of ridiculous shenanigans that shine the focus away from the bride.
The other three women, newlywed and wholeheartedly blissful Becca (Ellie Kemper, “The Office”), the disillusioned wife and mother of teenagers Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and the full-framed Zach Galifianakis counterpart Megan (Melissa McCarthy), are all just passive spectators with an occasional funny outburst to the Annie and Helen fireworks. The secondary wolfpack could have been used much more often for comedic effect, but their relegation makes sense as the War of the Bridesmaids makes for a more obvious romantic comedy ploy.
And while “Bridesmaids” does ultimately have its heart planted in romantic comedy, it’s got one killer funny bone. There are plenty of big laughs to go around here, be they from physical comedy, hilarious situations, or witty writing. All in all, it’s great summer entertainment that spells the end of the beginning for Kristen Wiig. Goodbye supporting roles, hello comedic leading lady. B+ /