Hands down, “Bridesmaids” is the most consistently funny comedy of the year. Following in the best tradition of films from the Judd Apatow franchise, it gender flips 2009’s “The Hangover,” following the hilarious antics of two childhood gal friends whose relationship strains to gut-busting proportions as one of them heads to the marriage altar and the other falls into depression-fueled rages laser-aimed at a new rival poised to rip the nuptial duties from her cold, dead hands (to appropriately twist Charlton Heston’s NRA-biased quote). This rowdy, occasionally lewd, but also heartwarming and even romantic look at BFFs and the few good men who come into their lives should outlast last week’s similarly themed but excruciatingly unfunny “Something Borrowed.” The best (of many) things about “Bridesmaids” is that it ages well with repeat viewings, consistent with how I felt after two pre-opening screenings of “Superbad.” A strong ancillary afterlife should be expected; it will put the blue back in blu-ray.
Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph are the buds on the brink of breakage. Both have been key components of “Saturday Night Live” and have dabbled with numerous film projects through their still young careers. Rudolph’s star quotient will rise on the coattails of this wacky script from Wiig and Annie Mumolo, longtime friends and alums of the L.A. improv troupe The Groundlings. Many of Wiig’s performances have already registered well with audiences. “Knocked Up,” “Whip It,” “Adventureland,” and this year’s under-received alien comedy “Paul,” where her belief in Intelligent Design is quickly ‘fixed’ by the titular character, are but four of her memorable appearances on the big screen. Her promotion to lead actress finds her alongside another Paul, this being Paul Feig, the film’s executive producer and director. Actor-turned-producer-director Feig, who had cast the actress-comedienne in a small role (slutty mom) in her first feature “Unaccompanied Minors” a half-dozen years ago (about the time Mumolo and Wiig started writing their tale of a disgruntled bridesmaid), is best known for the classic television series “Freaks and Geeks,” but has also directed award-winning episodes of “The Office” and helmed multiple programs for “Nurse Jackie,” “Arrested Development,” and “Weeds.” Nice credentials.
Feig stirs together comic timing, finely defined and slightly bent characters, and several story lines into an operatic soup of outlandish, push-the-envelope proportions. The key component involves failed baker/disgruntled jewelry store salesperson Annie (Wiig) and her ill-advised intentions of attempting (poorly) “anything you can do, I can do better” as she continually tosses slings and arrows at Lillian’s (Rudolph) new prim, proper, and uppercrust friend Helen (Rose Byrne of tv’s “Damages”), who is married to the brother of Lillian’s rich groom-to-be. The other ladies in tow provide a robust comic background for each to perk up Annie’s misadventures as the worst bridesmaid this side of the moon. These include Megan (Melissa McCarthy of CBS’s “Mike & Molly”) as Lillian’s no-holds-barred future sister-in-law, who would feel right at home on the Navy Seal team that just took down Osama bin Laden. Rita (“Reno 911″‘s Wendi McLendon-Covey), Lillian’s outspoken cousin, is a lustful but poorly loved doormat of a housewife who hates her three sons’ semen exploits. She attempts to advise naive, virginal newlywed Becca (Ellie “The Office” Kemper) on her marital obligations. Other bit characters include Annie’s nasty British roommate Gil (Matt Lucas) and his over-proportioned and pea-brained sister Brynn (Rebel Wilson). You’ll remember how the latter applies a bag of frozen vegetables to a nasty infection anytime you open your freezer. And Jill Clayburgh, her too-brief life on earth now over, provides some scene-stealing moments of her own in her final film, as Annie’s mom, a devotee of the stars (Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds) of distributor Universal’s 1982 feature “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” I would have expected a memorial dedication appropriate in the end credits.
As for the men in Annie’s life, there’s Ted, a sexy, commitment-phobic, self-involved jerk (Jon Hamm in a gem of a despicable role), and Irish-born Chris O’Dowd as Officer Rhodes, a policeman, fan of her baked goods, and down-to-earth suitor. The things Annie does with her wreck of a rusting Toyota (it’s broken brake lights are a running gag) to try to gain his attention are downright illegal and playfully funny.
Milwaukee, home to classic sitcoms “Happy Days” and its spin-off “Laverne & Shirley,” provides a nice battleground for the goings-on, even if the film was shot in Los Angeles. Whether its a bridal shop where the remnants of a failed visit to a Brazilian eatery return to haunt the ladies as they feverishly fight for bathroom space, a painfully wicked tennis match, or a country club Paris-themed bridal shower (you’ll love the party favors), there’s plenty of fun for all in the audience. There’s even a Las Vegas-bound road trip that hits a very rough spot when tourist class Annie attempts to infiltrate the increasingly restrictive air space of her first class friends. Megan’s row-mate Jon (Ben Falcone) gets her full attention when they discuss the places that air marshall’s hide their weapons somewhere near Casper, Wyoming. Keep your cheeks closed for this discussion.
As Annie’s depression escalates, and Lillian’s exasperation with her long-time friend grows, the out-of-control antics on all fronts will leave you admiring the histrionic talents of all involved. Visual gags fly faster than a speeding bullet as Helen’s overproduced, laser-driven wedding arrives with more than a few blips, although the smile-inducing bash brings everyone to their feet as Wilson Phillips performs their 1990 hit “Hold On.”
Weddings are a serious business (ask my daughter, who works at Martha Stewart Weddings), but they can also be excruciatingly funny. It’s great to watch such an intensely raw and real—and female-driven—comic approach to the events surrounding the nuptial ceremony. So enjoy it for at least the next two weeks. Then the guys are back in town with “The Hangover Part II.”