Critical Mass: 'Bridesmaids' gets to one-up the bride
This may be touted as the summer of superheroes, but it appears the female-centric "Bridesmaids" is about to dominate the season's opening.
One year ago this month brought us the release of "Sex and the City 2" and a firestorm of critics tearing down the iconic images of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda and lamenting the perceived death of the female-driven comedy as summer tentpole.
This year, we get "Bridesmaids," a wedding comedy that's more likely to bow at the porcelain altar than the altar of Manolo Blahnik. And judging by critical reaction, it's a ride into potty humor that critics are more than ready to take.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey rejoices at the idea of an R-rated comedy from the female perspective: "For the Mars crowd, that means real people in real relationships, real raunchy, real funny. Thank you, Kristen Wiig, for every single one of those old-school Rs."
Manohla Dargis is equally enamored in her New York Times review. "It would be easy to oversell 'Bridesmaids,' though probably easier if also foolish to do the reverse. It isn't a radical movie ... it's formally unadventurous; and there isn't much to look at beyond all these female faces. Yet these are great faces, and the movie is smart about a lot of things, including the vital importance of female friendships."
Front and center in almost every review are the formidable comedic skills of "SNL" star Kristen Wiig, who stars in "Bridesmaids" and co-wrote it with former Groundlings castmate Annie Mumolo. Elizabeth Weitzman's praise in her New York Daily News review is typical: "Wiig may well change the way Hollywood looks at ladies. She and the equally wonderful [Maya] Rudolph provide an ideal antidote to the plastic characters in formulaic rom-coms like last week's 'Something Borrowed.' Equally important, they capture female friendship with an honesty and generosity that's nearly nonexistent onscreen."
But not all female critics have hailed Wiig and her film as the renaissance of the chick comedy. Village Voice critic Karina Longworth's review is decidedly mixed, with her biggest criticism striking at the heart of what the film is all about: " 'Bridesmaids' continues to vacillate between two contradictory types of raw matter -- one, the kind of raucous, visual, and vacuous comedy that plays well in a trailer; the other, a more nuanced approach forgoing immediate spectacle and punchline for character detail that pays dividends as the film rolls along. Or, in more cynical terms: The former tosses meat to the traditional male comedy audience, while the latter wins over ladies who look to rom-coms for self-identification."
Male critics have embraced the film with such whole-hearted abandon that it leads to some odd admissions, such as the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern, who starts his positive review with, "If this is only a chick flick, then call me a chick."
Perhaps no one gave the film a more glowing review than Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman, who gave "Bridesmaids" a full-on A score. He writes that Wiig is "the rare 'SNL' player who may prove to be a movie star because she's a true actress as well." He also compares it to the once-great "Sex and the City" by saying, "The raunchy girl talk has an earthier flow than it does in, say, "Sex and the City." And just when you're sure that the movie won't go there, we get a lavish explosion of gross-out humor."
"Bridesmaids" is a critical hit, at least. But it may also be cause for concern: In the new era, the chick flick will go from the cafe to the lavatory. Be warned.
--Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: From left, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and Ellie Kemper star in "Bridesmaids." Credit: Suzanne Hanover / Universal Studios