See It/Flee It: Wiig Fest

See It: The First Half of Bridesmaids

Ever since its release, a demographic-spanning group of friends and family recommended The Hangover to me with the loftiest hyperbole. “The funniest movie ever,” was a common utterance. Which of course meant that when I finally sat down to watch it, the highest grossing R-rated comedy in history couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. Although I suspect that I would have hated it just as much without the hype, what with its hero christening his friend “Dr. Faggot” because he won’t stand up to his shrill, domineering wife (’cause there ain’t any other kind, right, brah?). Hence, I was really looking forward to Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig’s take on the wacky wedding party tale that promised to cleanse my Bradley Cooper-hair gel-encrusted soul. And its first hour more than delivers, playing to all the strengths of its superb cast. Wiig’s lovable wise-ass persona lends itself nicely to her lead role as Annie, the downtrodden best friend of the freshly engaged Lillan, played by Maya Rudolph – in an early coffee shop scene, the actresses riff so comfortably together, you imagine they must be friends off-screen. Supporting players Wendy McClendon-Covey and Melissa McCarthy do their share of scene-stealing as well, and Jon Hamm is spot-on as Wiig’s booty-call bastard Ted. It’s the way this kind of movie is supposed to work – its plot is as formulaic as The Hangover or My Best Friend’s Wedding, it’s just written and performed by funny people, and gives them a broad canvas to do their thing. There are too many jokes that hinge on McCarthy’s size, and Rose Byrne’s snobby rich lady character is so cliche she’s barely a person, but for the most part, this is about as funny as ensemble comedy gets in Hollywood.

Flee It: The Second Half of Bridesmaids

Remember how the first hour of Bridesmaids was a fresh take on tired romantic comedy tropes? Well, Wiig, co-writer Annie Mumolo and director Paul Feig saved all of the derivative, boring gal pal stuff for the balance of the film. After a delightful flight to Vegas set piece that involves Wiig getting drugged and announcing that she sees a colonial lady on the wing, Bridesmaids becomes a slog, as we watch Annie’s life systematically fall apart. She gets booted from her apartment, loses her job, moves in with her mom, and has a supremely selfish nervous breakdown at Lillian’s bridal shower. McClendon-Covey  pretty much vanishes, along with her hilarious, repressed housewife rage. McCarthy is thrown into the role of comic relief, and while she tries valiantly, her schtick suddenly feels out of place. And most importantly, that Wiig and Rudolph chemistry turns into the kind of schmaltzy BFF fluff that this movie was supposed to be satirizing. Oh yeah, and Annie’s romantic interest is Nathan, a funny, hard-working, non-threatening guy who cares about her problems. He’s as much of a cartoon as Ted, but far less fun. By the time we get to the final wedding scene, the free-form party of the first hour seems like a distant memory. So, while it’s much funnier than The Hangover, Bridesmaids still feels like a failed relationship – how could something with such potential end like this?