13 May 2011


From left, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig are shown in a scene from "Bridesmaids."
More and more these days, you just can’t trust the advertising for movies.

Based on what you’ve been able to see of “Bridesmaids” so far, it probably looks like a “chick flick” or the female equivalent of “The Hangover.” The title gives the impression of an ensemble-driven movie.

Though there is a fine cast around her, “Bridesmaids” is principally a vehicle for Kristen Wiig, one of the most valuable performers in the current cast of “Saturday Night Live” and a frequent supporting player in big-screen comedies (“Knocked Up,” “Ghost Town,” “Adventureland,” “Paul”).

The movie, from a script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo and directed by “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig, isn’t really about a wedding, and it isn’t a wild, “Hangover”-style romp. Sure, it has some of the R-rated raunch typical of a picture from producer Judd Apatow—a dress-shopping scene in which food poisoning leads to vomiting and other unpleasant bodily functions easily springs to mind. But at its heart, this is a movie about friendship.

Wiig, in her first leading role, is Annie—30-something and single, having just lost her boyfriend, as well as her business. There is a man (Jon Hamm) in her life, though he’s a jerk and the relationship is purely physical, showing just how little Annie thinks of herself.

When Lillian (former “SNL” regular Maya Rudolph), her childhood best friend, announces her engagement, Annie accepts her invitation to be her maid of honor, becoming the unofficial leader of an oddball group of bridesmaids: Helen (Rose Byrne), the wealthy wife of Lillian’s fiancĂ©’s boss; Lillian’s cousin, Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a frustrated wife and mother; Lillian’s co-worker, Becca (Ellie Kemper), an innocent, young newlywed; and Lillian’s future sister-in-law, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), a friendly, masculine type and the only one who seems truly happy.

Annie finds a rival in Helen, the two of them vying for control over many of the pre-wedding activities and the even-more-coveted title of “Lillian’s best friend.”

Wiig, known for going way over the top on “SNL” but for subtlety and restraint in the movies, finds a balance in that here, giving a sympathetic, funny performance. She carries the movie in a way that women do not often get the opportunity to do, especially in ribald comedies like this. It’s a rare case of the lead being the breakthrough performer in a mainstream, studio movie.

At 125 minutes, “Bridesmaids” is long for a comedy, but it earns its running time by fully developing its characters and their relationships, including a romantic subplot involving Annie and a friendly police officer (Chris O’Dowd). Laughs become a little scarce for a small stretch toward the end before picking back up for the finale.

Though I can think of a handful of Apatow-produced movies I enjoyed more (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Superbad,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek”), “Bridesmaids” is likely to be one of the best comedies of the year.

Greg's Grade: B+

(Rated R for some strong sexuality, and language throughout. 125 minutes.)

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