MGM // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 6th, 2005
Four beautiful daughters. Big family secrets. An affair to remember.
Making a movie is really, really hard work. I tell myself this every time I sit through a film -- particularly one like Kiss the Bride, a low-budget indie that is obviously a labor of love for its writer-director-producer-star, Vanessa Parise. A film like this doesn't have the luxury of having money thrown at it every time it encounters a bump in the road. It doesn't have an enormous crew to break down every single aspect of the production until each individual is left with only one task. There's nothing cynical about it -- a quality that's becoming more and more rare in (yes, even independent) movies today. I have to respect and admire the effort that went into bringing the film to the screen. Lord knows it isn't an easy thing to do.
But if I'm wearing my critic hat (and I ought to be, as I'm currently engaging in film criticism), I must also recognize that for all of her hard work, Parise's movie doesn't work -- not for me, anyway. For as much dialogue as she has written, a good deal of it falls flat; for all of the "personal" touches she's included, much of the movie feels contrived -- populated by stock characters in been-there-done-that situations. Its biggest shortcoming, though, is that it asks us to spend an hour and a half with a group of people we wouldn't want to spend more than five minutes with in real life -- a self-absorbed, shallow, and shrill bunch if ever there was one.
The "bride" of Kiss the Bride is Danni Sposato (Amanda Detmer, Final Destination, Lucky 13), the youngest of the four Sposato sisters, preparing to marry her boyfriend, Geoff (Johnathon Schaech, That Thing You Do!), in a matter of days. Their wedding is cause for a reunion of the Sposato sisters, who seem to have grown distant in recent years. In addition to the wide-eyed and good-hearted Dannie, there's Niki (Brooke Langton, The Replacements), an actress who has sold out in her family's eyes by starring on a Baywatch-inspired cop show; Chrissy (Parise), a cold and successful businesswoman; and Toni (Monet Mazur, Torque), the rebellious wannabe-rock star / trendy lesbian who brings her girlfriend (Alyssa Milano, Poison Ivy 2: Lily) home just to get a rise out of her more "traditional" family.
In some ways, Kiss the Bride reminded me of a film I reviewed a couple of months back: Michael Clancy's Eulogy. In that review, I questioned the notion that dysfunction between family members is inherently funny -- are we supposed to laugh simply because people don't get along? Parise's movie takes a similar approach, opting to mine similar dysfunction for drama rather than comedy; the result is scene after scene of family bickering and shallow squabbling that annoys rather than compels. Even Talia Shire and Burt Young, as the Sposato mother and father (is staging a minor Rocky reunion noteworthy enough to recommend the movie?), are really only afforded one scene together, and -- surprise! -- all they do is shout at one another. Lovers fight. Parents fight. Sisters fight. Parents fight with sisters. Parents fight with lovers. There's no story being told -- just an endless succession of self-pity and whiny confrontations.
That so many of the characters and so much of the dialogue is oversimplified cripples this movie more than it might others; without any real plot going for it, character and dialogue are all the film has. Parise's screenplay draws clear inspiration from films like The Big Chill and Return of the Secaucus 7 (though some viewers might accuse it -- unfairly, I would say -- of cribbing from Nia Vardalos' inexplicably popular My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though in this case the family is Italian), having a large collection of characters return home to rehash old wounds and resolve their histories. What I can't connect to is how one-dimensional so many of those characters are (not all of them, as I liked Brooke Langton's actress torn between two worlds, both professionally and personally -- she should have her own movie); no one speaks or acts outside of the limited parameters set for her or him by the script. No family -- not even one this dysfunctional -- is like that.
MGM delivers Kiss the Bride on DVD; like many of the studio's lesser-known catalog titles, the package is pretty underwhelming. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer and in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1; brightness and colors are decent, but several scenes are too soft and some grain is occasionally noticeable. The only available audio track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that fails to impress, though it delivers the dialogue (which makes up the majority of the movie) acceptably. The only extras included are the movie's theatrical trailer and a handful of interviews with the cast in which no great insights (or even much of the actors' personalities) are revealed.
Thank you, Vanessa Parise, for your film. I know it wasn't easy to get made, and I have to respect anyone with the creativity and tenacity to bring a movie to the screen. I appreciate your efforts. Ultimately, though, my responsibility is to DVD Verdict readers -- those who want to know if Kiss the Bride, hard work or not, is worth recommending. To that, I would have to say "no," and that the movie didn't work for me, but that's my prerogative as a critic. Your prerogative is to go out and make another film. I promise to give that one a chance, too. It's the least I can do.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Cast and Crew Interviews
* Theatrical Trailer
* Bonus Trailers
* Official Site