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Review: ‘Dresses’ Not Much More Than Standard Fare

Jess Shaffer | Monday, January 21, 2008

Do romantic comedies exploit winter blues? I think so. And “27 Dresses,” headlined by Katherine Heigl, is no exception.

It’s that time of year when a cup of hot coco is just not enough to warm your heart. And the bleakness of 10-degrees-below-zero weather doesn’t exactly help. Parkas, earmuffs, scarves and mittens are probably not the cuddly consolation you had in mind for surviving the remaining winter months. … Hollywood to the rescue. In an effort to satisfy – or exploit, cough cough – whims of frostbitten love, the annual wintertime romantic comedy invades the box office. Last year it was “The Holiday,” and this year it’s “27 Dresses.” With a trendy cast, lots of fashion faux paxs, and the minimum requirement of witty banter and physical humor “27 Dresses” complies to the chick flick standard, with little innovation.

Heigl was perhaps the perfect pick for being leading lady of “27 Dresses.” With the hype surrounding her engagement and recent wedding, her “Grey’s Anatomy” publicity, and her previous film success in “Knocked Up,” Heigl no doubt generates the perfect media storm necessary for box office triumph. Just as with her previous movie and television ventures, Heigl succeeds in her role as Jane, a wedding fanatic who lacks the word “no” in her vocabulary. As usually, Heigl brings her own class and charm to the role, making Jane both relatable and likable.

Jane is the underdog that the entire audience is rooting for. With Heigl at the wheel, fond sympathy overrides indignation, as she continuously suffers the plight of the curse of “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” The trend is taken to extremes when Jane begins arranging her sister’s wedding to the man of both their dreams. But Heigl doesn’t make the audience suffer with her. She avoids becoming annoying and whiney, and instead represents a dynamic character overwhelmed by her own compassion and need to take care of others.

The supporting cast complements to Heigl’s work. Marsden plays the guy who steals Jane’s heart. With sarcastic bitterness and (of course) attractiveness, Marsden fills the role as a journalist, who has lost faith love and marriage, the very topic of his style column. Bringing his own good looks, Marsden exhibits nothing especially interesting. His chemistry with Heigl, while cute, is nothing outstanding. Outside their outrageously handsome coupling and occasionally sweet moments, there is not much to them as a pair.

There are also the stock characters like the loving old fashioned father and the jaded, droll best friend. The evil woman of the film is Jane’s overindulged sister, Tess. Played by Malin Akerman, Tess is ironically the antithesis to Jane’s self-sacrificing nature. Akerman plays a bridezilla reminiscent of that friend or sibling you unfathomably still love despite all her selfish antics. In this way Tess, as a supporting character, allows viewers to connect to Jane through their own experiences with cattiness.

Despite its highlighting cute moments and the intermittent great one liner “27 Dresses” pulls too heavily from its predecessors. There are countless scenes evocative of romantic comedy “greats.” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days,” “The Wedding Planner,” “The Holiday” and “America’s Sweethearts” are all represented influences.

Though it could have saved itself with better writing or a fresh take on an overdone storyline, “27 Dresses” lacks the charisma or ingenuity to separate itself from these precursors. In the end, there is not much too the film and it is overly reliant on the formulaic preconceptions of the chick flick.

While meeting the standards of mediocrity, don’t go into this film with high expectations for it to become a romantic comedy classic. Still, it may be good enough to satisfy the needs of your winter blues with some cliché old tricks.