Catch her if you can.
In Runaway Bride, Garry Marshall brings Richard Gere and Julia Roberts together again in an attempt to recreate the magic they had in Pretty Woman. Although I really wanted to love this movie, I found that when it was over the only comment I had was a lukewarm, uninspired "That's nice."
Ike Graham (Richard Gere—Pretty Woman, First Knight, Red Corner) is a reporter for USA Today and only has about an hour and a half to come up with a topic for his column. As he wanders the city looking for a story we find out that his past columns have included bitter diatribes toward women. While at his favorite watering hole, Ike meets a man who tells him of a girl from his home town who repeatedly has dumped her grooms at the alter and is called the Runaway Bride. Ike quickly writes up a story about the woman who dresses men up as grooms and then devours them, a real man-eater, and meets his deadline.
The next day in Hale, Maryland, Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts—Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, My Best Friend's Wedding) reads the article about herself and thinks that it must be a pre-wedding joke from her friends (yes, Maggie is scheduled to be married shortly). Her friend Peggy (Joan Cusack—Arlington Road, In & Out, Toy Story 2 as Jessie's voice) gently breaks the news to Maggie that the article is indeed real and a then infuriated Maggie writes a scathing rebuttal to the editor of USA Today pointing out the column's 15 factual errors; such as that she only dumped three grooms rather than the seven that Ike accuses her of dumping.
Back in The Big Apple Ike's editor learns that the newspaper's lawyer feels that the article's errors are actionable. Ike is then fired for fabricating his facts. In an attempt to vindicate himself, and also to land a great story, Ike heads for the rural town of Hale in hope of watching Maggie dump her fourth groom at the alter. Once Ike arrives in Hale he meets all of Maggie's family, friends, current and ex-grooms and begins to discover why she exits her weddings each time. Viewers discover more about Ike and Maggie through their interactions with each other as well.
Okay…so the story sounds pretty interesting and the casting sure landed some top-notch talent. Why then is it that this movie didn't electrify the screen the way that Pretty Woman did for me? I thought about it for a long time and ruled out some pretty basic things. The directing was excellent—after all, who am I to quarrel with the successful way that Garry Marshall puts together a film? The locations were really gorgeous, with the filming happening in the late summer and early fall seasons. We get to see lots of beautiful countryside covered in fall colors and the movie is set in a quaint little sleepy town. Certainly nothing wrong with that. And I'm a real fan of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, both of whom can bring romantic comedy characters to life. So what exactly was it that left me feeling uninspired when the movie was over? In the section below I'll give a shot at coming up with an explanation.
The picture was presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and was enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The colors were rich and vibrant and the image was crisp and clear. The sound was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the sound was separated well. Extras include a commentary by Gary Marshall that is informative and at times entertaining, a theatrical trailer (not enhanced and presented in Dolby Surround), and the music video "Ready to Run" by the Dixie Chicks (also not enhanced and presented in Dolby Surround).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Getting back to the question raised above…if all of the elements of this movie work, why doesn't the end product make me feel satisfied? The only conclusion that I could come up with is that although Gere and Roberts are excellent actors, they make us care about them most when they play certain roles. Richard Gere is the most endearing when he's playing a man on a course of self-discovery given the circumstances he finds himself in. The best example that I can come up with for this is his role in Sommersby. Julia Roberts is the most likable when she plays a good-hearted woman finding herself in difficult circumstances. The best example for her would be Notting Hill. If you think about Pretty Woman, both of these actors play those types of roles, make us care about their fates, and end up with a tremendous amount of chemistry as a by-product.
In this movie Gere plays a journalist with a grudge against women and Roberts starts her role as a man-hurting woman who gets someone she doesn't know fired from his job because of some nit-picky facts. Once they meet, they spend another quarter of the film bickering with each other, and then we finally get some insight into why they are the way that they are during the second half, but frankly it's too little, too late for us to really care any more. The movie ends on a high note, but boy do we have to work up some compassion for the characters to feel anything once we get there. Given this situation the amount of chemistry that they had was pretty darn low. To compound issues for me, every time I see Joan Cusack, I can't help but remember being scared witless by her in Arlington Road and I kept waiting for her character to turn creepy and evil.
Even though Runaway Bride doesn't measure up to Pretty Woman, it still has a lot of elements in it that work pretty well. This one makes a great rental when you are looking for a light evening's entertainment, and serious fans of Richard Gere or Julia Roberts will probably want to ante up for a purchase.
All involved are acquitted.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Garry Marshall
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