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The Scarlet & Black

Bridesmaids lives up to lols (?)

By Lee Purvey

When “Bridesmaids” was released last May, its promotional posters explicitly made—in pink all-caps lettering—a certain promise in style:  FROM THE PRODUCER OF SUPERBAD, KNOCKED UP, AND THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. For those who have spent the last decade or so under a humorless rock, this allusion is to Judd Apatow, the acclaimed writer, director, and, yes, producer who first appeared on many a radar in 1999 as the Executive Producer of the adorably quirky and regrettably short-lived television show, Freaks and Geeks (created, by the way, by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig), and then entered mainstream Hollywood by means of 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (which he also produced). Apatow has since gone on to establish a veritable monopoly on quality, comedic output in American film, to date releasing 14 feature films through his company, Apatow Productions, generally characterized by their sympathetic virginal/heartbroken/stoned everyman protagonists, staggeringly talented casts occupying an assortment of colorful supporting roles, and dialogue-based, often improvised humor à la The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s famed “you know how I know you’re gay” scene.

Returning to Bridesmaids, the film (starring Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo) more than delivers on its promise of Apatowian revelry, happily laying thick layers of sexual humor, bodily fluids, and painfully awkward social misfortune over what boils down to a fairly sweet, though not particularly original, rom-com storyline about love, friendship, and rediscovering one’s confidence.

The film focuses on the story of Annie Walker (Wiig), a 30-something Milwaukee resident going through a personal crisis. The small bakery she owned and operated recently went out of business, and her boyfriend (and former business partner) promptly dumped her, leaving her in a dismal state, both financially and existentially. She lives with a British brother and sister (who seem intent on fulfilling the criteria for world’s worst possible roommates) and works at a jewelry store—a job she only got because her mother is the owner’s AA sponsor.

To complicate things further, Annie’s lifelong best friend Lillian (played by SNL alum Maya Rudolph) becomes engaged and asks Annie to be the Maid of Honor, a role she is initially more than happy to fulfill, but which ends up placing her in a volatile situation, as she competes for Lillian’s friendship with the rich and beautiful bridesmaid, Helen Harris (the inexplicably familiar Rose Byrne).

What follows is the humorous chronicling of Annie’s downward trajectory to her own personal “bottom” and subsequent attempt to re-invent herself, win back her best friend, and get the proverbial guy (a Milwaukee cop played by the characteristically likeable Irishman Chris O’Dowd).

Not a lot of surprises here, both in terms of structure and ultimate resolution, but a solid script and a talented cast serve to keep the story moving when it inevitably lags or the jokes miss their mark.

Both Wiig and Rudolph (easier to appreciate the more years separate her from her rather unfortunate days on SNL) do a fine job of balancing the serious and comedic elements of the plot. But the real laughs come from the characters that surround them, most notably Melissa McCarthy’s bawdy bridesmaid, Megan (a role which just earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress—no easy feat in comedy), and Jon Hamm’s caddish playboy, Ted.

These two, along with the rest of the cast (with the exception of the half-heartedly vilified bourgeois Barbie doll, Byrne, whose main problem is unfortunately just not being particularly funny) make this a solid comedic effort. Though probably not deserving that buzz that surrounded it last spring and far from on-par with the stuff of Apatow’s early years, Bridesmaids provides a heartfelt message, a love story anyone could get behind, and enough laughs to keep you interested.

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