MPI // 2011 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // August 6th, 2012
"You may now kiss the decoy."
While rom-coms litter the modern cinematic landscape, unique choices in an otherwise predictable paint-by-numbers plot help The Decoy Bride stay out of the compost pile.
When Hollywood superstar Lara Tyler's (Alice Eve, Men in Black 3) London nuptials are ruined by the paparazzi, her wedding planner has the brilliant idea of taking a literal page from the groom-to-be's best-selling novel and move the festivities to the Scottish island of Hegg where the story takes place. At first Lara is thrilled, because the book is one of the reasons she loves her fiancé James (David Tennant, Doctor Who), but when the media hordes crash the island, a devastated Lara runs away. In order to give the wedding party time to find her and hopefully thwart the paparazzi drastic measures must be taken. That's where Katie (Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire) comes in. As the only single woman residing on the island, she's hired to play the decoy bride. Unfortunately, they keep this small detail from James and hijinks ensue.
The more romantic comedies that are made, the harder it is to escape the genre's proliferating clichés. Though The Decoy Bride falls victim to some of those platitudes, the film rises above, exemplifying the joy of the journey over the destination. For example, we have the requisite meet-cute between our leads, but their meeting cracked me up (it involves a cow).
On the surface, Katie and James couldn't seem any more different. However, a quick look beneath the surface reveals they're both at exactly the same point in their lives -- paralyzed with no idea where to go from here. MacDonald and Tennant portray these lost souls with such conviction you find their every interaction perfectly believable. From endless bickering to more tender scenes, neither actor jumps ahead of the moment or lingers too long in the one immediately preceding it. The film's short run time means they have to be very deliberate with their pacing in order to sell the relationship, and they do just that.
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, this beautiful transfer highlights every Isle of Man vista with a wonderfully subtle palette, allowing the filmmakers to show the same locations as both dreary and beautiful, depending on the mood. It's hard to believe the weather wasn't completely manufactured. I'm always tempted to say a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is overkill for a rom-com, but since much of the film takes place outdoors it works exceptionally well. While composer Julian Nott does not supply an intricate symphonic underscore, there is plenty of ambience here that would be lost on a lesser track.
Bonus features include interviews (extremely choppy), a deleted scene (does nothing to enhance the story), and some featurettes which consist of behind-the-scenes footage and VFX shots. Nothing here is worth more than a cursory glance, so you can skip them with a clear conscience.
The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the film is the underlying conceit that Lara would be free of the paparazzi once she's married. It's never explicitly stated, but everyone knows this wouldn't be the case. Given the film's surprising level of cynicism elsewhere -- which only helps to sell the story's effectiveness -- dismissing this particular truth is disingenuous.
The Decoy Bride is charming, clever, and funnier than it should be. I enjoyed experience more than I ever expected, and can actually conceive re-watching it; a rarity for rom-coms.
The real verdict's gone missing, so here's a decoy: Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scene