Written by: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic
Romantic comedy. Edward Burns.
Those words sent a chill up my spine as I prepared for the screening of 27 Dresses. One of the two is bad enough – but both together? How insipid would this film be? And let's not forget that it’s January, that cinematic wasteland where a depressed, post-holiday movie season Hollywood dumps its most forgettable fare. Loyal readers of this site will know that I'm no fan of the romantic comedy. This doesn't bother me, but some of my friends are telling me I'm a grump. So before we get to my review, let me ask myself a question: Am I a heartless grump?
I say no. I've tried to explain to my friends that I don't have anything against this genre as a rule. Good movies are good movies, and if a good movie is also chick flick, so be it – but that's the problem. A lot of so-called romantic comedies are neither romantic nor comedic, and that's not even their worst offense. They exploit the vulnerability of lonely women, presenting their audience with lead characters so phony – yet so alluring – that these movies can pull all kinds of unrealistic garbage and get away with it.
I despise this manipulation, I truly do, so I rebel against it. The result is usually that I end up hating these films – I'm talking "10 worst movies of the year" hate.
Turning our attention to Edward Burns, actor: Most of my friends don't mind my dislike of him – that's because none of them know who the hell he is. When my friends ask me who he is, I say, "Oh, he was the main guy in Confidence and 15 Minutes," and they blink owlishly at me.
I remember Burns' big directorial debut, The Brothers McMullen – well, mostly I remember the hype around it. The film itself was an OK slice-of-life about Irish brothers, but Burns' by-the-numbers direction didn't impress me. As an actor, I find him annoying in that "I’m so bland, but I think I’m hot" kind of way. I mean, really – how does this big idiot even get work? Like, if Matthew McConaughey blows out a knee, they call in Burns?
So, the stars were aligned here for an epic failure, and I was so ready to rip into the film and call it the worst of the year and blame it for the coming recession. I was that ready.
Then two things happened – or should I say two actors happened.
I'm talking about Katherine Heigl and James Marsden.
Listen, when I recount the basic outline of the plot, you're going to roll your eyes, but bear with me. Heigl's character loves weddings so much that she'll be a bridesmaid for friends and friends of friends. Marsden writes about weddings for a paper that sounds a lot like the Wall Street Journal, but he hates them. Get it? She loves weddings, and he hates them! They'll never fall in love. (Added twist: When they meet, Heigl's character doesn't realize that Marsden is her favorite writer. Oh, intrigue!)
Enter Edward Burns, actor. Burns plays the guy who Heigl's character is in love with but will never have. Sure enough, Burns proposes to Heigl's sister, and we the audience are left wondering if Heigl will get over her dumb feelings for Burns and get with Marsden.
Guess how it ends? Spoiler alert: Heigl wakes up, and it's not Groundhog Day anymore.
Just kidding. OK, sort-of spoiler alert: I like this movie. Why do I like this movie? Well, unless I’m turning into a softie, I have to blame Marsden and Heigl. They have undeniable chemistry, and their fresh performances really elevate the script, which isn't great. For example: One memorable scene has Heigl and Marsden getting drunk in a bar. They launch into an impromptu sing-along, and soon the whole bar is singing with them. Sounds insipid, doesn't it? Well, Heigl and Marsden make you forget how silly that scene is while also making you forget you're watching a romantic comedy with Edward Burns, actor – and that's no mean feat.
But let's also give credit to the movie creative team: director Anne Fletcher and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada). Maybe men should just stay away from making romantic comedies and leave it to women, who seem to be more adept at capturing what's best about the genre.
Hey, I better stop before I start actually liking romantic comedies. How would I explain it to my friends?