Sometimes you watch a movie and feel as if you completely understand a character. Take 27 Dresses’ Kevin (James Marsden), a down-with-love journalist at a New York City newspaper who’s stuck in wedding-reporter hell. “If I have to write about baby’s breath one more time,” he says, “I’m going to shoot myself.” He’s got his eyes on his first lifestyle feature: a poor soul named Jane (Katherine Heigl) who’s always the bridesmaid, etc. Kevin flirts with Jane, hoping she’ll be willing to tell him about the 27 times she’s been bridesided, but as he gets to know her, a juicier story comes along involving Jane’s little sister (Malin Akerman) and the man of Jane’s dreams.
Duplicities and hate-you-love-you shenanigans ensue—and if I have to write about insipid romantic comedies one more time, well, I know how Kevin feels. 27 Dresses is being presented as date-movie gold (albeit in January), starring two budding Cameron Diazes, Knocked Up’s freshly queened Heigl and The Heartbreak Kid’s less-proven but still blonde ’n’ klutzy Akerman, along with Marsden, who had a stellar 2007 with genuinely funny turns in Hairspray and Enchanted. It was written by Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) , for cryin’ out loud. But the result is a closet full of tired, bursting with characters, dynamics, and perspectives that went out of fashion many films ago.
Jane, for starters, is perfect but single, always doing unto others whether it’s to accompany her friends down the aisle or fetch a breakfast burrito for her boss, George (Edward Burns). (You can tell she’s a saint, because Heigl’s hair is dyed a mousy auburn.) The following words apply to Jane: selfless, pushover, romantic. After receiving flowers from an anonymous admirer, she steels herself to put the moves on George when her sister, Tess (Akerman), meeting Jane at a company party, gets to him first. The following words apply to Tess: shallow, deceitful, bratty. George and Tess fall in love, with her proclaiming that she’s as much a nature lover as he is. (“I like yachts…and tanning,” she tells a tsk-tsking Jane.) They’re going to get married. Will Jane plan the wedding?
Of course, such a torch-carrying story requires that Mr. Perfect be right under the main character’s nose, and that’s where Kevin comes in. He and Jane fight and fight and fight until they don’t. Then they fight a little more—when it’s discovered the journalist has been acting less than ethically—but really, it’s all as dull as Heigl’s locks. So is Judy Greer, who’s thanklessly relegated to the slutty-best-friend role. Heigl at least manages a few nice comic moments here—and, to be fair, a couple of McKenna’s lines may elicit a chuckle. But there’s no overcoming the movie’s broad strokes—particularly its central idea that being single (while your little sister gets hitched, gasp!) is some sort of handicap. Worse, Jane’s grand comeuppance is not the triumphant stand it should be but an act as ugly and ridiculous as all the taffeta in her wardrobe.