Frothy, funny and formulaic, “27 Dresses” is a pleasantly predictable romantic comedy that sees Katherine Heigl following “Knocked Up” with smooth moves at the wheel of her first starring vehicle. Set to open Jan. 11, pic could prove a potent draw for femme ticketbuyers, dating couples and any “Grey’s Anatomy” fan who wants to see series regular Heigl in something other than a rerun.
An engaging actress with a flair for physical comedy and self-effacing humor, Heigl is immensely appealing as Jane Nichols, an ever-helpful people-pleaser whose biopic could be titled “The Runaround Bridesmaid.”
Ever since her childhood, when she started serving as surrogate mom to her younger sister following their mother’s demise, Jane has been a tireless provider of support and assistance for all in her orbit. Her chronic selflessness and attentiveness to detail have made her the perfect bridesmaid for her friends — more than two dozen of them, actually — and an invaluable assistant for George (Edward Burns), a clothing and outdoor-equipment mogul who’s blissfully oblivious to his employee’s infatuation.
Jane’s avocation as a bride’s best friend attracts the attention of Kevin (James Marsden), a cynical reporter who’s rather improbably employed (and even more improbably accomplished) as the author of a popular “Weddings” newspaper column. Unfortunately, Kevin has something new to write about when Tess (Malin Akerman), Jane’s sexy, self-absorbed sibling, attracts the attention of George, who’s so smitten he proposes before really getting to know his intended. Guess whom Tess asks to be her bridesmaid?
“27 Dresses” is a romantic comedy in which nothing the least bit surprising occurs, no disagreement or estrangement seems sufficiently serious to persist, and no one behaves in a manner that cannot be predicted by anyone who has seen more than two or three other romantic comedies.
But it helps that scripter Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) has provided some very amusing wisecracks for co-star Judy Greer, whose dry wit and spirited sauciness as Jane’s best buddy suggest a younger, sexier Maggie Smith. It also helps that choreographer-turned-helmer Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”) often finds fresh approaches to handling familiar scenes: When Jane and Kevin reach that inevitable point in their attracted-opposites relationship when they’re ready to unwind, Fletcher puts them through amusing paces in a drunken sing-along scene that makes better use of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” than any pic since “Aloha, Bobby and Rose.”
Whether she’s neatly balancing hilarity and heartbreak while stifling her unrequited love for George, or doing the bickering Beatrice-and-Benedict bit with a well-cast Marsden, Heigl effortlessly radiates the kind of charisma that can make auds fall in love with a character (and, of course, the actress who plays her). Akerman, Burns and Brian Kerwin (as the widowed father of Jane and Tess) are thoroughly pro but serve as little more than plot devices and/or window dressing.
Costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas deserves special credit for creating the titular 27 bridesmaid dresses — dutifully preserved in Jane’s cramped closet — that range from gothic to cowgirlish, from too revealingly slight to eye-stingingly garish. The outfits reinforce aud’s overall impression of Jane: She must be a really, really good friend if she’s willing to wear outfits like these.