By Brian Lafferty
January 3, 2012 (San Diego) – I pop in the Bridesmaids DVD. I’m ready to laugh. I wait. Fifteen minutes pass. Then thirty. No laughter. Then a whole hour passes by, but not a single chuckle was uttered. Towards the end of the movie it was so quiet in the house that I distinctly thought I heard the sound of crickets chirping outside.
I didn’t laugh once during the two hour running time. I couldn’t even smile. What made it irksome was that every single joke had the potential for a laugh but the writers and actors find some way to foul it up.
Kristen Wiig is Annie, a woman who has lost her bakery to the recession and who has recently gone through a break-up. Her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and asks her to be the Maid of Honor.
Sounds fun until Annie meets the wealthy socialite Helen (Rose Byrne, who is utterly dislikeable and not in a way people love to hate). She hasn’t even known Lillian for a year and she claims that she’s her best friend and soul mate. Helen dominates everything from choosing expensive dresses that the cash-strapped Annie can’t afford, overruling Annie’s choice of location for the bachelorette party, and even steals Annie’s idea for the baby shower. This annoys Annie so much it strains her friendship with Lillian.
One reason I didn’t laugh was because of the film’s inability to commit to a tone. It either wants to be a fun comedy like The Hangover or a black comedy. Number one, you can’t have it both ways. Even a comedy needs to have a consistent comedic tone. It doesn’t work to have one sequence try to be The Hangover funny and the next sequence try to have dark humor. It doesn’t work like that.
Second, neither type of humor is fully executed. Not only can’t the filmmakers and actors commit to one tone, they can’t even fully commit to whichever tone they go with. I recalled something Bob Engels, my screenwriting professor at California State University, Fullerton and former joke writer for Richard Pryor, once said about comedy: go all the way. No matter which tone they choose, they’re hesitant every time they try to deliver a joke or gag.
The jokes and gags that they do try are excruciatingly painful to watch. I cringed instead of laughed. I cringed because I felt embarrassed for the actresses. I cringed during the dueling reception speeches between Annie and Helen, which dragged on too long and too awkwardly. I recoiled when Annie got drunk on the plane and caused a ruckus. The last straw was when Annie lost it at the shower. When she screamed, destroyed the dessert table, and essentially threw away her friendship, my sympathy turned to anger when she couldn’t tell Lillian how Rose stole the idea for the shower from her.
Then there’s the bad timing in every joke, gag, and line of dialogue. According to the commentary, there was a lot of improvisation and it shows. They are so desperate to get a laugh that any single potential funny line gets mangled.
Here’s some irony. When I watched Bridesmaids, I didn’t laugh or smile and the two hours and five minutes were unbearably long. When I listened to the commentary, I laughed and smiled and the one-hundred and twenty-five minutes went by fast. The commentary with director Paul Feig and most of the female cast (notably absent is Rose Byrne) is fun. Everyone is very loose and jovial. It’s a sharp contrast to the mean, miserable and down in the dumps atmosphere of the movie.
Also included in the special features is a Line-O-Rama. It’s a reel of dialogue that didn’t make the final cut. Very few of them are any funnier than what made it into the film.
The only really good thing about the DVD besides the commentary is the transfer. It is smooth and has striking image quality. The lights and colors are fleshed out. I may not have laughed and I may have cringed, but I at least had some reason to look at the screen.
A Universal Home Entertainment release. Director: Paul Feig. Screenplay: Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo. Original Music: Michael Andrews. Cinematography: Robert D. Yeoman. Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi-Mclendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Chris O’Dowd, and Jill Clayburgh. 125 minutes (R-rated version). 130 minutes (unrated version).