Banal 'Bridesmaids' fails to live up to potential 

It all seemed so promising: a comedy from “Freaks and Geeks” creator Paul Feig, produced by Judd Apatow, about rival bridesmaids undercutting each other before the big day. Maya Rudolph starring alongside former “Saturday Night Live” colleague Kristen Wiig. And there, in the opening scenes, a fleeting glimpse of Tim Heidecker, one half of the demented duo behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

All signs seemed to promise a farce worthy of the name, and for those first few minutes “Bridesmaids” delivers.

Perhaps, you think, Apatow has done for female bonding what he did for the emotionally clumsy guys of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” Alas, no. The movie sputters after that strong start, and inspiration, like the pacing, is an early casualty.

Is “Bridesmaids” a saccharine romance? A raunchy comedy? A self-help tutorial for women on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

At times it is all these things, and in the right hands — specifically Apatow’s, since he has proven particularly adept at juggling the sweet with the scatological — it might work.

But for a comedy, the laughs here prove elusive.

Yes, there are funny moments to be found in the movie’s too-long, two-hour-plus running time. (As with many Apatow productions, a less indulgent editor would have helped.)

A vicious tennis match, in which passive aggression gives way to full-on warfare, is a highlight. And Melissa McCarthy (TV’s “Gilmore Girls”), playing a sort of female Chris Farley, has a nice monologue about high school bullies trying to use her as a human explosive.

But too often in this story of two women vying to be maid of honor — one, Annie (Wiig), a blue-collar 30-something, lost in life and love — the focus shifts, the tired comedy of female hysteria (think “Bride Wars”) gives way to maudlin melodrama, and key characters out themselves as one-note stereotypes.

Consider Helen (Rose Byrne), Annie’s competition. She’s everything Annie isn’t: rich, put-together, condescending. But is she anything more?

Apparently so, yet her last-minute development rings false.

Most of the time, she, like too many others in this everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink story, is merely a plot device, so obviously objectionable that no living being would care to spend a minute in her company. Same goes for Jon Hamm’s friend with benefits.

It’s worth noting that the movie concludes with a glorified music video, intended as a moment of celebration not unlike the “Aquarius” singalong in “Virgin,” or perhaps the Ewok party that capped “Return of the Jedi.” It’s a cheap, needless sequence, and for those not in a celebratory mood, a perfect time to bolt for the exits.



Bridesmaids ??

Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd

Written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo

Directed by Paul Feig

Rated R

Running time 2 hours 5 minutes

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