It occurred to me while watching this movie that romantic comedies are a lot like bridesmaid dresses. Occasionally you come across one that you can bring out again and again no matter what the occasion, but most are unsightly things that manage to serve its purpose and then should never be seen again. 27 Dresses falls into the latter category. A lackluster romcom that wears like a drab shift, it hangs limply on an uninspired and disjointed script, vainly hoping that attractive stars and overtures to fairytale weddings will give it life.
The film tries to revolve around Jane (Katherine Heigl), a woman who knew she was destined to be a bridesmaid from a young age when she rescued a relative from disaster on her big day. Twenty-seven weddings and many years later, she still hasn’t lost her love for love’s big day. But even as she sees her friends off in wedded bliss, she remains single, pining for her boss, George (Ed Burns), who mistakes her devotion for superior administration skills. Her best friend (a delightful Judy Greer) has it right when she gives Jane a crisp smack in the face after one too many teenage bouts of infatuation.
I say the film tries to revolve around Jane because plot and message get tangled as more people enter the picture. Jane’s perfect sister, Tess (Malin Åkerman) arrives for a short visit but ends up staying much longer when she becomes smitten with George, lies about her love for tofu and dogs to earn his affection, and gets engaged. Jane is helpless to stop the whirlwind romance and is resigned to playing the sacrificial lamb. Meanwhile, an interloper offers a sometimes sympathetic ear. Kevin (James Marsden) meets Jane as she shuffles between two weddings one night. A writer for the style pages, he aspires to report on real news and sneers at the institution he writes so eloquently about.
The film juggles two romances but doesn’t have enough hands to keep up with both. The story bounces around between ideas of infatuation, betrayal, and loyalty, not appreciating the fact that Jane and Kevin are the ones giving the film structure. Her optimism balances his cynicism. She gives an impassioned defense of weddings that is a mission statement for romcoms everywhere while he offers a moderating influence on their excesses. Though it’s clear who has the winning argument, the joy of marriage that prompts Jane to wear her twenty-seven dresses and to grudgingly plan her sister’s wedding is nowhere to be found. Even as Kevin warms to her pure-hearted perspective while surreptitiously writing an exposé on the perpetual bridesmaid, you simply have to take his word that’s there’s something deeper to all this, that maybe true love is by itself all you need. Don’t trust the film to show you what it looks like though. While Heigl and Marsden are serviceable in their roles, there’s little in the way of actual love, not in the brief nuptials, not really between either couple, and not amongst Jane’s friends and family.
Prod: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman
Dir: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Cast: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Ed Burns, Malin Åkerman, Judy Greer, David Castro
Time: 111 min
Country: United States