If you had to pick a man working in Hollywood who has been involved in some way, shape or form with some of the best R-rated comedies of the past few years, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with a better track record than Judd Apatow. He has been successful as a director (Knocked Up & The 40 Year Old Virgin) and a producer (Pineapple Express, Superbad, Talladega Nights) of well received R-rated comedies. Each of the Judd Apatow directed or produced films I have seen all have one thing in common, they seem to be targeted to a male audience. I’m not saying ladies won’t enjoy the movies, just noting that the main characters are male and the movies usually skew toward a male perspective. It is for this reason that I was intrigued by the idea that Apatow was producing Bridesmaids, an R-rated comedy that seemed to be targeted towards women. So is the movie a "chick flick" or does it transcend gender boundaries and appeal to men as well?
I must admit, I thought Bridesmaids looked funny as soon as I saw the first trailer, but I couldn’t get past a sneaking suspicion that the film was created to serve as a female version of The Hangover. I entered the theater fully prepared to surrender my “man card” for roughly two hours, hoping they’d give it back after seeing the movie. So did I get it back? I never had to surrender it. I’m happy to report that Director Paul Feig has teamed up with Judd Apatow to create a female centered R-rated comedy that should appeal to anyone with a sense of humor, regardless of gender.
The premise is simple enough. Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph) have been best friends since childhood. Lily gets engaged and asks Annie to serve as her maid of honor. The movie follows Lily’s bridal party as they bond with one another in the weeks and months leading up to the wedding.
As with my review of The Hangover: Part II I’ll try to avoid spoiling the funniest bits of the movie by discussing them in detail. So I guess I’ll begin by talking about the things that stood out to me. Three actresses really shined through for me. Kristen Wiig was spot on as Annie. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Wiig for awhile now, loving her work on SNL and her bit parts in movies such as Adventureland, Semi-Pro (as the animal trainer) and Ghost Town. She actually co-wrote this movie and after watching it I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Annie is less than self-assured and in my opinion Kristen Wiig is one of the best at playing that type of timid, soft-spoken character. She brings humor and pathos to the role of Annie.
A second stand out performer was Rebel Wilson. She plays Brynn, one of Annie’s roommates. Ms. Wilson nails her part as the quirky roommate ala tons of comedies before. One of my favorite lines from the trailers is when she tells Annie she read her diary, thinking at first it was just a “very sad, handwritten book”. Honestly, it’s kind of a shame that her character isn’t featured more in the movie, but I think she’s going to garner some well deserved attention from her wonderful performance as a clueless roommate.
The third performer who stood out for me was Melissa McCarthy, who plays Lily’s soon to be sister in law, Megan. I might be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see much more of Melissa McCarthy in upcoming comedies. She’s already starring on the CBS show Mike & Molly, but her performance as Megan is hilarious. If I were to go out on a limb, I’d say that her performance as Megan will do for her what the role of Alan did for Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, introduce main stream audiences to a wonderful comedic talent. Megan has to be one of the funniest characters in the movie, if not the funniest. If you don’t laugh at her behavior in the bridal shop, please see your doctor immediately, as you have a stick stuck up your ass.
When reviewing The Hangover: Part II I criticized it for showing most of the funny parts in the trailer. Bridesmaids is hindered by the same thing. There were a few funny bits in the movie that weren’t featured in the trailers, but they were few and far between. What makes me want to recommend this movie over The Hangover: Part II is the fact that Bridesmaids has more of an emotional center to it. Of course it’s fun to follow The Wolfpack on their adventures, but in reality there’s not much that we can relate to. I’m considering doing an in-depth commentary on the two movies and these differences, but for now I think it’s important to tell you all that if you are deciding between the two you have to keep one thing in mind. Bridesmaids is a comedy, but it definitely has some elements of drama in it, probably more than most people anticipate.
It’s not like I walked into the theater and the movie was a tear jerker, but the laughs are tempered with a fair bit of emotional material. I’m reminded of a saying my high school English teacher made us memorize and discuss, “To enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality”. Basically we learned that you shouldn’t write something clever just to do it, but have some purpose to your writing, like teaching a lesson. On the other hand, if you find yourself with a lesson to teach, be sure you deliver it in a clever way so your audience is more apt to retain the lesson. I know comedies are supposed to make you laugh, but what’s wrong with reflecting on a thing or two along the way? So why bring this up?
I think that Apatow’s movies for the most part have done a good job of making us laugh, while allowing us to address emotions or real life themes. Knocked Up dealt with how men and women deal with pregnancy and the changes a child can bring to your life. Superbad allowed us to explore friendship and whether or not it has the ability to last forever. Director Paul Feig is no stranger to tempering comedy with lessons, he’s directed episodes of The Office and Arrested Development, television shows which deal with life as a team member in a workplace and family dynamics, respectively. Talladega Nights only taught us about crepes (little thin pancakes), so obviously, not every movie Judd Apatow has directed or produced has featured some sort of life lesson, but on the whole one can say his movies have some sort of emotional heart to them.
It’s important to note that Paul Feig does a good job of balancing the comedy and drama. At no point in Bridesmaids do things become “preachy” with the audience being beaten over the head with life lessons. Perhaps I’m personalizing the movie, most of my friends are married or getting married & I’m still single, but I think viewers should be aware that the movie won’t be full of knee-slappers only, there is a definite heart to the film and it pulses throughout.
I’m not going to lie. After seeing how The Hangover: Part II was basically the same movie as the first, but set in Thailand, I wanted nothing more than for Bridesmaids to deliver big laughs like the original Hangover. I wanted to have found a summer comedy that I could recommend to my readers without hesitation or caveats. I’m not sure if Bridesmaids meets that criteria. Sure there are some big laughs, but I don’t know if I recommend it just for the laughs. I think it’s worth seeing because it’s funny and deals with issues most of us will face in our lives. If you go into the theater knowing you’ll laugh and you just might cry I think you’ll be happy you saw Bridesmaids, but if you go in expecting hearty laugh after hearty laugh you might leave a bit disappointed. As for the gender thing, I think guys will enjoy it. It’s funny. I’m sure some guys might not go for the more emotional stuff (its not bad at all) but I’m sure they made the special lady in their life suffer through something like The Expendables, so they owe it to her to take her to see Bridesmaids!
Verdict: The most difficult review I’ve written. It delivers some big laughs, but its surprising “heart” tempers the comedy with relatable human emotions. If you keep this in mind I think you’ll really enjoy the film.
Opinion Piece?: Anyone remotely interested in an opinion piece discussing why I’d recommend Bridesmaids over The Hangover: Part II? It won’t be too lengthy, but it might be fun.