I’m one of the few movie fans who just doesn’t appreciate Judd Apatow’s special brand of humor. In fact I often will skip a movie just for seeing his name attached to it. I would have done the same with “Bridesmaids” if not for the Academy Award nominations and critical buzz it received. Unfortunately it doesn’t take the movie long to latch itself to the other Judd Apatow productions. Yet underneath the veneer of fart jokes, toilet humor, and raunch lies a movie with some heart and some genuinely funny moments, a movie that could have stood on its own and done without the other junk that Apatow seems compelled to put into his pictures.
After seeing the trailer my first impression of “Bridesmaids” was that it was “The Hangover” starring women. That was enough to turn me off. But from a story perspective it’s quite different. It’s actually a movie about Annie (Kristen Wiig), a disillusioned thirtysomething living in Wisconsin whose had a run of bad luck. She recently had to shut down her bakery, she has no money, and she’s forced to share an apartment with a loopy British guy and his freeloading sister. She hates her new job at a small jewelry store and her personal life is equally in shambles. Her boyfriend left her and she’s currently in a one-sided go-nowhere relationship with the insufferable and self-centered jerk Ted (Jon Hamm). It’s a good life, right?
Despite all her troubles at least Annie has her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). That is until Lillian reveals that she is engaged to be married to a loaded Chicago bigwig. Annie is asked to be the maid of honor and to plan the wedding with the help of Lillian’s quirky group of bridesmaids. Among those bridesmaids is the wealthy, prim and proper Helen (Rose Byrne) who doesn’t mind throwing around her money and connections. Soon Annie and Helen find themselves in a serious competition to be the true BFF of the bride. Melissa McCarthy plays Lillian’s crude and sometimes obnoxious sister-in-law who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the bridesmaids. McCarthy received an Oscar nomination for the role. But even though she provides some laughs with her raunchy female John Candy routine, its just a variation of a role we’ve seen many times before.
Annie and Helen’s rivalry heats up and eventually boils over. Annie’s desperate attempts to one-up Helen ends up causing a series of mishaps that not only threatens the wedding but her friendship with Lillian. While the whole wedding thing is a key component to the story, it’s really a movie about Annie and her decision to face the changes in her life. It’s about not letting life’s changes grind you down. Instead you move on. You turn the page. This isn’t easy for Annie because the movie really piles it on her. I mean you name the tough situation or bad break and Annie gets it. But life throws her a lifeline in the form of Nathan (Chris O’Dowd), a friendly highway patrol officer. The question is, will Annie ever reach out and grab the line?
As I mentioned, there’s really is a lot of heart in the story and Annie’s plight is certainly a sympathetic one. It’s also easy to care for her thanks to Wiig’s wonderful performance. I also really enjoyed Maya Rudolph as Lillian. She and Wiig play off of each other beautifully and the movie was at its best when these two were on the screen together. But when it gets down to it, this is a comedy and “Bridesmaids” has some truly hilarious moments. The script has moments of comedic brilliance that results in some of the funniest scenes I’ve watched in a long time. But this also gets to the film’s big weakness which I alluded to earlier.
It’s the raunchiness and cheap toilet humor that drags the movie down (something that seems to be mandatory for every Apatow production). These unnecessary moments yanked me out of the story and undermined a lot of the more clever and intelligent humor that the movie uses. You could cut out the raunch, including a lot from McCarthy’s character, and the movie would be better for it. Then you have scenes such as when the ladies are trying on gowns at a high-end bridal shop and then begin feeling the effects of food poisoning. The gross-out bathroom humor is lazy and ridiculous and seems terribly out of place. I swear I felt I was suddenly watching a cheap National Lampoon’s flick. Sadly, these are the things that keep “Bridesmaids” from being an even better film than it is. Yet despite these shortcomings there are moments that are incredibly funny and even heartwarming. You just have to weed out the other Apatow influences to enjoy them.