Whenever I hear about a new comedy starring actors from Saturday Night Live, I cringe. The majority of SNL alums are not able to take a feature-length film and carry it from beginning to end. Thankfully, for every few failures there is one or two that actually strike a chord and resonate with an audience. I never thought that Kristen Wiig would be the next one to bring this to the large screen, but BRIDESMAIDS proved me wrong.
BRIDESMAIDS is the story of Annie Walker, played by Wiig (ADVENTURELAND, WHIP IT). Annie has just been asked to be the maid of honor in her best friend Lillian’s wedding. Lillian is played by Maya Rudolph, who is starting to gain some credibility of her own following a subtle performance in AWAY WE GO. This bit of casting was really well done. Putting two women from SNL at the reins was quite a bet, but it surely pays off. The friendship between them works because it is based in their own real friendship, its simple but you believe it right from the beginning.
You can tell in the early scenes that Annie isn’t happy about the engagement. She hasn’t had luck with her career, boyfriends, and now her best friend is leaving her… Annie is broken up but excited about her friend’s engagement until the engagement party. This is where we get to meet the rest of the bridesmaids, and also where things start to fall apart. Lillian has asked her husband’s-bosses’-wife (Helen), with whom she is friends, to be a bridesmaid as well. Helen is played fervently by Rose Byrne (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS). She’s beautiful, confident, and rich; in and of themselves things that would threaten Annie on a good day… but she’s also jealous and wants to take control of the bridal party. This is the only part that really drives me crazy. I don’t understand in movies like this (or MEET THE PARENTS, or any number of others) why people don’t notice the person being a jerk. Helen does (and says) some things that really should have set off warning bells for people, but they don’t. So Wiig is stuck on her own.
The ensemble cast is phenomenal. The bridesmaids are rounded out by Rita, Becca, and Megan, played by Wendi McLendon-Covey (RENO 911!), Ellie Kemper (THE OFFICE), and Melissa McCarthy (MIKE & MOLLY) respectively. Each one brings a distinct perspective and adds exponentially to the ensemble. Jon Hamm (THE TOWN) and relative unknown Chris O’Dowd (PIRATE RADIO) round out the cast as two very different men involved in Annie’s life; Hamm as an idiot/jerk/pretty boy, O’Dowd as a cop (with a weird accent) who falls for our imperfect heroine. Finally, Annie’s roommates, a brother-and-sister from Britain, bring some really great moments to the screen.
All of the pieces fit together well, but in reality this movie stands out for three reasons. The first is producer Apatow – his mark is clearly branded in this film from start to finish. There’s a wonderful cast of characters who are developed just enough to be (quasi-)believable, even though they do and experience some outlandish things. Known for his ability to develop amazing ensemble performances, he definitely succeeds here. The second was the inspired casting of rising television star Melissa McCarthy. Her character Megan is so well done. She could easily have become the “fat friend” caricature we see so often in Hollywood. Not here. McCarthy takes command in her first scene and gives a never subtle but incredibly lovable performance. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks about her, which is the perfect antithesis to Annie, which brings us to…
The final, and most important, piece of the puzzle… (drumroll, please)… Kristen Wiig. While there are a few moments where she reverts to simple humor, Annie is a fully developed human being who is clearly dealing with some difficult times. She doesn’t make good choices, she’s passive aggressive and suffers from low self esteem, but all the while you find yourself rooting for her. It’s a testament to Wiig’s ability that her serious moments work even better than the comedy scenes. For someone who rarely plays the straight man, she shows that she has chops for something more. BRIDESMAIDS is a movie well worth your time.
Video: (1080i/p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The movie looks good, it’s a great transfer to HD and it looks sometimes shockingly clear (the scene in the dress-shop, for example).
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is well done. Nothing that you’re going to use to show off your sound system but the comedy mix and dialogue are emphasized in the right places to make you feel like you’re part of the wedding party.
Commentary featuring director Paul Feig, co-writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, and actors Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, and Wendi McLendon-Covey (02:10:17) The director reunites with the female ensemble shortly before the film opened. Feig acts as a kind of moderator throughout, and the ladies all share great stories from their experience putting the film together. In my humble opinion this is how every single commentary should be done. Enjoy.
Extended Edition (02:10:17) Not much added here that really makes it worth watching over the theatrical edition. A couple of extra scenes but is mostly just a few lines or alternate takes.
Gag Reel (09:41) These are pretty much expected when you see a movie like this, but this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a bit annoying when the music kicks in the last two minutes, but the rest of it flies.
Line-o-rama (12:41) 2 part special feature. More improvisation here, but these were all takes that could have made the film (no actors cracking up). When I see this much improvisation it makes me wonder how funny the original script actually was? By the way – Melissa McCarthy is funny. That is all.
Made of Honor: Behind the Scenes of Bridesmaids (31:43) And my question (posed in the Line-o-rama feature above) is answered immediately. This ‘making-of’ featurette actually describes the technical process. They actually made new passes and revisions in the script as they were rehearsing to play up the relationships that emerged.
Blind Date with Dave (05:21) This was a blind date scene that was cut from the final film between Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Dave (Paul Rudd). It’s a fun little scene.
Dave-o-Rama (01:45) This was Rudd’s set of improvisation. Not nearly as funny as some of his work, but I would have enjoyed him in the movie in a larger role.
Deleted Scenes (Total time 08:57) Five scenes that were cut from the film. Two full scenes and three alternate takes of a single scene between Annie and her Mom.
Extended and Alternate Scenes (Total Time 50:03) 15 scenes that were cut down for time or alternate takes of scenes that made the movie. One of the issues with improvisation is making sure that you have a cohesive story at the end of the shooting. After watching these and the other features – there were a number of directions the film could have taken, but I’m glad that they didn’t choose to pursue them.
Roommates (Total Time 8:40) 11 deleted, extended, or alternate scenes featuring the roommates. Includes a low budget commercial that’s pretty funny.
Cholodecki’s (Total Time 23:22) Some decent scenes featuring the incredible Michael Hitchcock, but nothing that really should have been included in the final movie. They are broken into deleted scenes (05:28), extended and alternate scenes (15:32), and two commercials for Cholodecki’s (02:22).
Drunk-o-Rama (04:21) Multiple takes of Wiig’s improvisation during the airplane scene.
Pep-talk (02:41) Some takes that were cut from the tennis match.
Annie vs. Helen (07:29) More improvisation between Wiig and Byrne. Decent, but a little much on top of everything else.
Hold On (04:31) Yep, it’s the whole song recorded for the wedding. Don’t act like you didn’t love Wilson Phillips. I know you did. We all did.