“You kind of stole all the crazy.”
“I out-crazied you.”
Okay, the fact that I reviewed “Bad Santa” last year should tell y’all I have no shame about watching and recommending gross-out movies. Still I hesitated on this one awhile before deciding to give it a shot. The critics’ reviews were pretty good but when a friend told me about the “intestinal distress while in bridesmaids dress situ” scene, I wavered. Did I really want to watch a film where the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids all race for the lone bathroom in a chi-chi wedding salon – and some of them don’t make it? Guess you can tell that in the end, I did.
Down on her luck Annie (Kristen Wiig) is thrilled when her long time best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph, who I loved in “Away We Go”) announces her engagement – especially after a hilarious brunch when Lillian wonders if Dougie is about to break up with her (“He calls me Dude a lot.”) But it doesn’t take long for trouble to elbow its way onto the scene. At the engagement party – held at the snooty country club where Dougie’s family and boss are members – Lillian introduces Annie to her other bridesmaids Becca (Ellie Kemper) who seems to have a chaste marriage with her Ken doll husband, Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Reno 911) whose three boys have her living in a fluid spattered home, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) who makes sex sound like a full on Krav Maga session, and Helen Harris III (Rose Byrne) who’s so perky and perfect she makes everyone’s teeth ache.
Or maybe it’s just Annie who can’t stand Helen as the other women eagerly fall into line with whatever expensive outing Helen dreams up for the pre wedding celebrations while Annie’s efforts result in the women suffering an extreme bout of food poisoning as they try on expensive bridesmaid dresses in a shop with white carpeting. The bachelorette trip to Vegas also falls prey to Annie’s fear of flying and probably gets her added on the no-fly list after Air Marshall Jon (Ben Falcone) and Megan have to take a hysterical Annie down mid-flight.
Annie’s love life also sucks as she bounces between bad dates and f*ck buddy, happy-go-lucky asshole Ted (uncredited John Hamm). Still, a chance meeting with Wisconsin State Trooper cutie Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd, whose accent I just want to wrap around me like a blanket), due to her taillights being broken, brings Annie a much needed sympathetic friend to whom she can pour out her troubles.
When her frustrations boil over at the OTT French themed (complete with Golden Retriever puppy party tokens) bridal shower, will Annie finally go too far and alienate her best friend forever? And does she have any hope of salvaging her budding relationship with Rhodes before her self doubts sabotage that too?
Let me try and find some redeeming aspects of the film to salve my conscience about rec’ing it. Annie does grow as a person. She learns something about valuing herself and that the human heart has an endless amount of room to add new friends. Annie finally sees that Helen doesn’t have the perfect life it appears to be from the outside and that perhaps she’s just looking for someone to accept her too. And maybe Rhodes’ encouragement – plus the carrot cake Annie bakes as a peace offering – has rekindled her dreams to make her living as a baker instead of existing in a soul sucking job in a middling jewelry store.
The movie also lets the female stars be funny in a way that few movies have allowed. Usually women have to be all nicey nice. Be sweet. Don’t say anything bad. Don’t make waves. Beam that clinched teeth smile in public like a lady and wait until you get home before yelling how you really feel. In “Bridesmaids” the women get to show it all in public. Though it might start with the painfully polite, faux female facade of friendliness before heading to the speech-off contest at the engagement party, pretty soon the white cotton gloves start to come off. From the tampon commercial tennis match to the screaming meltdown at the bridal shower (watch for the rabbits running for cover in the background) – the characters really show their true feelings right out in the open and to each others’ faces. I might not want to see a steady diet of this all the time and I certainly don’t think I could actually do any of these things in public myself – the “be nice” lessons of a lifetime are hard to shake – but it’s damn funny and refreshing to watch on screen.
Which leads me to the main reason to see it. I found it to be OMG funny. I started laughing at the morning “conversation of shame” between Annie and Ted and kept on during Annie’s impersonation of a penis and balls at her bunch with Lillian. Then there’s Annie’s brother and sister roommates – ick! blech! scrub the tub scene from my brain with bleach! (note, this is in the unrated version of the film). Annie’s sobriety test is only topped by Steve Martin’s in “The Man with Two Brains” while her taunting of flight attendant Steve, while under the influence of whatever pills Helen gave her washed down with a gulped Scotch, had me in stitches.
Annie’s not the only one with the good lines though. Megan wants to climb a hawt guy “like a tree” and Rita frankly talks about how she wants “balls in her face” during the bachelorette party in Vegas. Helen’s disingenuous “Oh, you can get checks cashed here” comment followed by the condescending statement about the “sense of camaraderie in coach” would make me want to slap her too. I loved Rhodes’ and Annie’s morning radar gun bantering, though if he let Annie sit in the front seat when they started after the guy going 91 mph – “can’t let that go” – why couldn’t he let her do it again later in the film?
But the three sequences that stand out for me are the well known “food poisoning,” the French bridal shower throw down, and Annie’s attempts to get Rhodes to help her. The “hot lava” get-me-to-a-toilet, projectile vomiting scene almost made me wet myself even as I thought “am I laughing at this?” I just had to immediately rewind it to make sure I’d really seen what I just thought I had. And then I laughed at it again. Good thing Helen’s husband is probably rich enough to replace that carpeting. The butterfly flitting out of the bridal shower invitation box (a box for God’s sake!) set the tone for things to come. Riding white horses while being lead to Helen’s house was bad enough but the hot chocolate fountain, party favors (but why Goldens? Why not poodles?) and the gigantic cookie would have me at least thinking if not saying “Are you shitting me?” too. Watching the dual meltdown is cathartic (“She does NOT get a party favor!”).
The last scene is funny but also revealing. Annie discovers the hollow sham of Helen’s life then starts to open up to her as a friend – just a bit, we see how much Annie hurt Rhodes, how he’s struggling to maintain that hurt but that there might be romantic hope here- and it’s funny as hell. The first time I saw it I was concentrating on Annie and Rhodes but take the time to watch what Rose Byrne as Helen does as her facial expressions are priceless.
This is another Hollywood release that doesn’t have the bonus material on the rental discs (I hate, hate, hate these!) The extra stuff is worth seeking out as the commentary is good and the gag reel truly is funny. But the line-o-rama, where the director just let the actors ad lib and improv a variety of lines, is a scream. That alone is a reason to try and see this stuff.
The film ends in a way I like. Not everything is neatly wrapped up. Annie still doesn’t have a job. She and Helen might get to be closer friends but I’d never bet the farm on them being BFFs. Megan seems to have gotten herself down to a manageable number of puppies and possibly has something going with Air Marshall Jon. And Annie just might be ready to let herself have a positive relationship with a man who looks like a winner. Maybe he’ll let her turn on his siren some more and play with his radar gun again. B+