Shannon Elizabeth’s notoriety owes more to her Barbie-doll frame (generously displayed in “American Pie” movies) than her acting chops, so she’s a less-than-obvious choice for this cheerful romantic comedy, which tries with sporadic success to cast her as the kind of set-upon bride-to-be with which every gal can identify. To their credit, however, the filmmakers have some fun by filling the movie with direct-to-camera narration and Walter Mitty-like fantasies, thus squeezing as much charm as they can out of this woefully familiar formula.
Girls dream of their weddings, and Sam (Elizabeth) has finally found the perfect little figurine to join her atop the cake — the kindly Ben (Eddie McClintock), who she sees as the promised prince who compensates for all the frogs.
Once engaged, though, life begins to get complicated. She earns a promotion at work that forces her to toil ungodly hours while she tries to plan the perfect wedding, which includes, among other things, teaching the reluctant Ben to dance. Adding to the degree of difficulty, he’s Jewish and she’s Christian, so a church wedding is out, prompting an “Annie Hall”-like encounter between the parents and later their respective clergy.
Finally, as pressure mounts on the couple, the high school crush that got away, Luke (Geoff Stults), saunters back into Sam’s life as a well-heeled client, causing the inevitable temptation, especially as Ben begins to lose patience with her neurotic hand-wringing.
It’s the kind of lightweight fare that would float away if not tethered down, but director Douglas Barr, and writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis manage to instill it with a bit of energy. Little touches — like switching to an “I Love Lucy” motif when the lust begins to fade from Sam and Ben’s relationship, or having her mother interrupt while she addresses the camera by asking, “Honey, who are you talking to?” — brighten the proceedings.
The real question is how women will respond to Elizabeth, who isn’t particularly convincing when she frets about the horrors of finding a dress that fits (puh-leeze) or refers to Luke as someone she could only worship from afar. Bombshell to ditsy and vulnerable can make for a tough transition, especially in a movie that can’t resist capitalizing upon her assets with Harlequin Romance-style sex scenes.
Then again, compared to the forgettable parade of movies Lifetime has churned out in its volume approach to moviemaking, this “American Bride” at least appears nicely tailored to its target audience, even if it won’t catch any bouquets for originality.