Universal // 2011 // 131 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // September 20th, 2011
"I wanna apologize; I'm not even confident of which end that came out of."
There's a school of thought that suggests women are just not funny. And though the likes of Tina Fey (30 Rock) have produced evidence to the contrary, Bridesmaids is still something of a rarity: a mainstream comedy, filled with crude (and often very funny) gags, where the male members of the cast are relegated to bit parts. But beyond the immediate novelty of a female-fronted gross-out comedy lies something far deeper, and much more worthy of praise.
When Annie (Kristen Wiig, Paul) learns her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph, Away We Go), is to be married, she plans to give her friend the ultimate send off. But unbeknownst to Annie, Lillian has forged a new friendship with Helen (Rose Byrne, X-Men: First Class), which threatens to undermine the relationship Annie and Lillian have shared since childhood.
Thus begins the battle for both Lillian's friendship and the right to plan her bridal shower, with Helen and Annie taking every opportunity to undermine each other.
Before viewing Bridesmaids for the purpose of this review, I knew only two things about it: a) it was a female-fronted comedy from the hugely successful Judd Apatow stable, and b) it had picked up a ridiculous amount of hype. What I didn't know, or expect, was that the comedy would be secondary to the relationships these women build and nurture through the course of the movie. Better still, to lump Bridesmaids into the "chick flick" genre would be a huge mistake, since it offers up a universal story of long-term friendships that will ring just as true with men as it will the more obvious female audience.
As an ensemble piece, Bridesmaids impresses with its ability to keep everyone relevant; ensuring every role has a purpose and none of the characters feel superfluous. Even the smaller roles, such as those given to Ellie Kemper (The Office) and Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!) are made memorable thanks to small the nuances that show an attention to detail often lacking in comedy. McLendon-Covey in particular, who plays the bored housewife Rita, is given some of the film's most memorable lines (usually pertaining to the bodily fluids adolescent males are prone to, er, spill). Wiig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Annie Mumolo (who herself provides a memorable cameo), deserves praise for the considered approach to dolling out the gags, which sees the balance of comedy and drama hit the sweet spot. Much of the opening hour is spent reveling in gross out humor, culminating in the finest diarrhea gag since Dumb And Dumber ("It's coming out like lava!").
Beyond that, it's the relationships that make Bridesmaids a film worth revisiting, with characters whose faults are both numerous and relatable, which actually makes them more likeable. Annie and Lillian's friendship has an authenticity to it, and when newcomer Helen threatens to disrupt that relationship, the sense of loss felt by Annie is palpable. Bridesmaids actively acknowledges that women can be quick to undermine each other, and many of the underhand tactics employed in one-upmanship ring true. Refreshingly, Wiig and Mumolo have clearly set out to avoid the many pitfalls of the "chick flick," and have no anti-male agenda. Crucial in proving this are the roles of Ted (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) and Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd, The IT Crowd). Ted is the slimeball character typically found in many chick flicks; the guy who prays on the vulnerabilities of women, and who they fall back on even though they know he's no good for them. But for all his faults, Bridesmaids is quick to point out that women can be just as guilty of toying with men's emotions, as is seen in the treatment of nice guy Rhodes at the hands of Wiig's Annie.
Paul Feig's direction is almost invisible, to the point where many will hardly notice his contributions. But as is evident from his work on Arrested Development and The Office, Feig knows how to get the most from a gag without over-egging it. Likewise, the physicality of the performances, combined with an underplaying of the obviously ridiculous situations, produces a succession of cringe-inducing yet laugh out loud moments worthy of the finest comedies this decade. Special praise must be given to Melissa McCarthy as Megan, the loudest, crudest, most profane member of the group. Apart from her turn here, my only previous experience of McCarthy's work has been from Gilmore Girls and a brief role in Doug Liman's Go, both of which showcased her ability to talk at one-hundred miles per hour. Here, in what I would imagine to be the least glamorous role she's been offered, McCarthy delivers a performance worthy of unbridled praise. A sexual predator, blessed with all the tact and appropriateness of a randy goat at a petting zoo, McCarthy equals (if not betters) anything the guys of The Hangover can muster. It's actually a compliment, when I say -- thanks to her post credits sequence -- I'll never be able to eat a giant sandwich again. Like everyone else, McCarthy shows a real appreciation for the quality of material she's been given to work with, and much like Maya Rudolph -- who is given possibly the most humiliating (yet hysterical) moment of comedy gold -- doesn't feel the need to overstate the obvious.
Bridesmaids comes to DVD on a single-disc release packed with features. The unrated cut is the main even, but the original theatrical release is also included. There's little difference between the two, though the extra laugh or two is appreciated. In addition, we get a selection of deleted, extended, and alternative scenes; a gag reel; a line-o-rama; and a faux commercial. Last, but not least, is a feature commentary courtesy of director Paul Feig, co-writer Annie Mumolo, and the girls (minus Rose Byrne). The commentary offers plenty of laughs, and is the standout bonus feature, especially since the DVD lacks many of the extras included on the Blu-ray release.
The 2.40:1 standard definition transfer is excellent, with a sharp image full of detail. The picture contains bright, vibrant colors, with solid black levels that add depth to the image. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack equals the video presentation, featuring crisp dialogue amongst a well balanced mix.
If you've heard anything about this movie, it will no doubt be just how funny it is, and there's no denying you'll laugh plenty. But what makes the film work, and so memorable, is its heart. You can take away the comedy and it would still be a perfectly serviceable film. As it stands, Bridesmaids is yet another standout release from Apatow, and confirmation of Wiig's brilliance. And if all that wasn't enough to convince you, '90s girl band Wilson Phillips turns up for a lively rendition of their hit, "Hold On." If that hasn't swung it for you, then you're a lost cause.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Theatrical Version
* Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site