Judge Katie Herrell thinks the hem of this movie could have been taken up a bit.
Our review of 27 Dresses (Blu-Ray), published May 5th, 2008, is also available.
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
The "chick flick" is never let alone. Unlike the stoner films, or the horror flicks, or the family movies that are allowed to roll out season after season with nary a review, the chick flick is constantly expected to live up to the great chick flick before it, and even worse, to the conception of the genre, those decades-old films that introduced love-starved women to public romance. Only the war movie seems to bear equal scrutiny these days, and for good reason, as these films are analyzed and assessed for their truthfulness and reality and depth about a topic so many people feel so connected to yet also so removed from.
But the chick flick needs not be more than a romantic frolic into the tumultuous love lives and inner personal turmoil of its characters. A story that resonates, to one degree or another, with its audience and allows either an escape from reality or a gentle shoulder pat that indeed he or she, the viewer, is not crazy, and in fact will find love one day, and if not love, then deep personal meaning where once there was none. Is that too much to ask?
Facts of the Case
Jane (Katherine Heigl) is a yes man. She works a job beneath her skill level because she's in love with her boss. She is a bridesmaid 27 times, sometimes attending multiple weddings in one night, because she loves her friends. And when her baby sister comes to town and is quickly swept up in an engagement Jane becomes entangled in an odd love square that ends imperfectly but happily…at least for half the square.
27 Dresses is a spectrum of success (or failure, depending on your outlook). The acting ranges from bad to charming. The sets range from outstanding to ridiculous. The dialogue is witty and cliched, frequently in the same scene. And the story is heart-warming, head-banging, and just plain unreasonable throughout.
Let's start with the acting. Katherine Heigl is in a word believable. Her looks are played down, moderately, and she truly seems like that friend that gives and gives but never takes. At the same time Heigl's character has quite a bit of wit and sarcasm in her, which seems more in line with what I perceive to be Heigl's true personality—but for the character it seems a bit unbelievable. Jane is repressed repressed repressed, a little girl grown up without a mother; although in many scenes she unleashes unbelievable candor, even lasciviousness, with complete strangers—a move that doesn't jibe with the majority of Jane. Heigl is her best during physical scenes such as running to-and-fro from wedding to wedding or trying on dress after dress.
Little sister Tess (Malin Akerman), fresh from the fashion world of Milan, wears her clothes well. She is a pretty, jittery actress, and while she harbors a strong on-screen presence her delivery, both orally and physically, is a bit out of sync. She looks at the camera when she's supposed to look at Jane or she flaps her arms when she's supposed to be smoothing her hair. Seeing as cultivating an on-screen presence is likely harder than learning stage directions, all is not lost for Akerman.
Ahh, but Edward Burns should know better. The experienced actor, who has gained acclaim in such heavy hitters as Saving Private Ryan and The Brothers McMullen, is too shiny to look at in this film. His hair glistens, his teeth glisten, and his aww shucks "I'm the boss, but I'm a regular guy who cares more about the green in the environment than in my wallet," attitude rubs the wrong way. Did Mr. Burns learning nothing from the train wreck that is The Holiday? It's inappropriate to smile all the time and be completely oblivious to the imbroglio swirling around you.
But James Marsden, Kevin, the fourth corner and writer of tear-jerking wedding articles that Jane clings to every week, has found his niche. All dimples and dim-wittedness in Enchanted, here Marsden gets to ditch the tights and the dimness, while still maintaining his cheeky appearance and appeal with the added bonus of intellect and suaveness. His Tom Cruise-worthy one-liner of, "Get over here," was perfect. Marsden is what every chick flick needs.
And on to the sets. The storyline is based in New York City, but the movie was filmed in Rhode Island. Seeing as much of the movie revolves indoors, the shooting location isn't detrimental to the film. A lot of time, and likely money, went into the set decoration for this movie. One special feature on the DVD, "Jane's World," details production designer Shepherd Frankel's job to create all of the numerous weddings that Jane attends. And they all feel different and well-done, if the actual wedding details themselves aren't a little, intentionally, contrived. It's amazing how an entire set was created for one wedding scene but received, maybe, a minute of film. Frankel particularly outdid himself with the office setting, Urban Everest. Although the green quotient of the scene, described in "Jane's World," isn't readily obvious, the feeling of New York hipness is. Jane's apartment is also well created, if not implausible for Manhattan on an assistants' salary. The scenes shot in Jane's apartment are well framed to showcase the hominess of the place while also keeping the camera angles wide enough for plenty of movement—and there's always movement between dashing Jane and flapping Tess.
Alongside Frankel, costume director Catherine Thomas also had her work cut out for her. The special feature, "You'll Never Wear it Again," offers an insight into Thomas's quest for the nastiest bridesmaid dresses; dresses you've seen before, possibly on your own disgruntled back. The closing scene showcases all 27 pieces of Thomas's handiwork and it is worthy of a still photograph.
For a simple chick flick there's a lot happening in 27 Dresses from the wardrobe changes to the set changes to the love square. The storyline is one of overblown reality. Jane's feelings are very realistic, even if her jam-packed life isn't. There's a convenient back story to Kevin's wedding history that is never explored, even in the special feature "The Wedding Party," which sort of rehashes all the back-stories in the movie, many which are explained well enough in the main film. And there are many obvious pulls from other chick flicks and even a reference to Heigl's summer 2007 triumph Knocked Up. Some of the lines in 27 Dresses, "The best part is you can shorten it and wear it again," are trotted out scene after scene and even the actors seem bored to be repeating them. But the Katherine half of Jane has some witty lines and Kevin's a banterer who can banter with the best. In short, just when you think 27 Dresses has fallen into chick flick autopilot mode, there's a sudden nose dive.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Perhaps the missing piece in this chick flick is a stellar soundtrack. Runaway Bride had the empowering Dixie Chicks to propel that movie forward, but the music in 27 Dresses trickled. Or maybe 27 Dresses could have benefitted from a closely-shot, romantic scene such as the famous ring on a string. The romance in 27 Dresses was seldom seen close up; the main exhibits of love unleashed involved the exhausted scenarios of dancing on top of a bar or proclaiming one's affection via microphone to a crowd of strangers.
In all 27 Dresses will never be heralded as a blockbuster chick flick, but that's not to say it should be dismissed wholesale. It's a movie that fulfills the genre's rules and thus supports the genre, validating and furthering its existence.
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• "The Wedding Party"
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