Malin Åkerman

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

The Heartbreak Kid is not a good movie, and it deserves to be thrown into the Hall of Shame alongside Adam Sandler’s oeuvre. Plenty of films are tedious, populated with grating characters, some are dull and infuse no life into routine plots, and still others overestimate an audience’s tolerance for whatever shtick they’re trying to peddle (see every Adam Sandler movie). The Heartbreak Kid, based off a Neil Simon screenplay and corrupted by the Farrelly brothers, combines all these into one steaming pile of dung.

After San Francisco sports store owner Eddie (Ben Stiller) is humiliated at his ex’s wedding and then berated by his father (Jerry Stiller) for being single and forty, he runs into Lila (Malin Åckerman) while trying to stop a purse snatcher. He doesn’t get the guy but he does get a date with her. A mere six weeks later, he proposes, partly because she’s hot and partly because her job wants to relocate the single people to Rotterdam. Despite reservations, he decides it’s the right decision and starts to look ahead to his honeymoon in Cabo.

The first twenty minutes are, like the characters, deceptively normal if a little dull, but things go downhill in a flash. The script draws from a wellspring of misogyny that Eddie dips into immediately after taking his vows. He and his friend Mac (Rob Corddry) balk when they see Lila’s overweight mother, a sure sign that this relationship is going to end in disaster. His father only adds to the shameful behavior with a mouth that would make Donald Trump proud.

Lila though is hardly a model of maturity and compassion either. She’s even more self-absorbed than her husband and possibly one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen. The wife from hell, she earns the title several times over. Some of her habits can be reduced to harmless personality quirks – she’s a little overenthusiastic about carpool karaoke, for example, but much of her behavior would be grounds for annulment. Lila’s tortured relationship with the truth means that she’s lying even if when she thinks she isn’t. She’s not upfront about her troubled finances, the nature of her environmental research job, or her former coke habit. Moreover, marriage seems to make her feel more entitled and demanding, thus confirming all of Eddie’s fears about long-term relationships and reinforcing multiple stereotypes in the process.

In most cases, I’d be side with Eddie, but Stiller doesn’t give much reason to warm up to his character. He plays the guy he usually does, a beleaguered everyman trying to make the most of a bad situation. It’s not very compelling and he lacks the charisma to justify sticking it through with Eddie. Åckerman, on the other hand, gives Lila an abundance of personality; unfortunately it’s the kind that makes you want to throttle her character.

There’s not one sympathetic soul until Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) breezes in. She’s vacationing with her family, good, sensible Mississippi folks, and is too pure for this mess. But Eddie gets involved anyway, adding yet another layer of deception and hysterics. At one point, Miranda rightly decides she’s had enough, which is that attitude we should all take with this movie.

Released: 2007
Prod: Ted Field, Bradley Thomas
Dir: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Writer: Scot Armstrong, Leslie Dixon, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Kevin Barnett
Cast: Michelle Monaghan, Malin Åkerman, Jerry Stiller, Rob Corddry, Carlos Mencia, Scott Wilson, Danny McBride
Time: 116 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2017

27 Dresses

27 dresses

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.

Released: 2008
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
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016