Since when does a chick flick and a “R” rating go together? It’s a melding of the merry minds of Judd Apatow, the king of bromance, and Kristen Wiig, one of SNL’s most talented performers.
While there is plenty of gross out humor in this as the trailer hints, there is also a surprising realism to it, grounded by Wiig’s character, Annie, a down-on-her-luck sad sack. When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces she is engaged and she wants Annie to be her maid of honor, things start to happen — for better and for worse.Stuck in a crummy sales job because her bakery start-up crumbled in the recession, Annie already has a gloomy outlook on life. Reinforcing her pretty low opinion of herself is her “sex only” relationship with a narcissistic jerk played by Jon Hamm. Another source of unhappiness is the matron of honor, Helen (Rose Bryne), whose husband is Lillian’s fiancé’s boss. She’s rich, bossy, and fast becoming a better friend to Lillian than Annie, who acts out her jealousy in embarrassingly puerile ways.
The other three bridesmaids run the gamut from a sex-starved housewife (Wendi McClendon-Covey) to a clueless newlywed (Ellie Kemper), but the funniest scene-stealer is Melissa McCarthy (from the CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly”) as the stout soon-to-be sister-in-law. Much of her comedy material is unprintable here. I did say this was R-rated, but as Wiig herself said in a recent David Letterman appearance, McCarthy “is on fire” every moment she’s onscreen.
Written by Wiig with Annie Mumolo (from the improv group Groundlings), this team took all the raunchiness of Apatow’s comedy brand and added in all the elements that women can identify with: failing relationships, faltering friendships, and romance self-wrecking, mostly seen through Annie’s eyes. Wiig brings a vulnerability and innate sadness to the character that at first seem oddly juxtaposed against the raunchy, bawdy comedy bits that go heavy on potty humor. But the female perspective brings an added dimension that nicely offsets the silly stuff.
Frequent followers of “Saturday Night Live” will recognize some of Wiig’s characters in Annie. She has a little bit of the boaster Penelope in her soft-spokeness, but none of the buck-toothed troublemaker Gilly, one of my favorites that Wiig recently announced she has retired from the show. What is completely self-evident is that Wiig is destined for greater things beyond late-night comedy skits. Many SNL alums have gone on to do movies, but only a handful successfully, largely due to their versatility, a quality she reveals here. For every forgettable one, like Will Forte’s unfortunate “MacGruber,” there is a breakout like Wiig in this comedy.
Always a supporting player — Wiig was actually in “MacGruber” — this is the first feature she carries as the lead, although she gets strong support from Rudolph, another SNL veteran with some serious comedy chops. And she wisely leaves some of the raunchier stuff to her co-stars while Annie develops a sweet romance with a cop played by Chris O’Dowd.
Filmed in Milwaukee of all places and directed by Paul Feig, the only sad note to the production is the appearance of Jill Clayburgh, who plays Annie’s mother, in her last film role.
Those put off by group food poisoning, foul language and in-flight shenanigans should just stay home. But if you want to laugh out loud long and hard, then say “I do” to the “Bridesmaids.”