'Bride Wars'

A shrill, mechanical comedy that will scare away more than just the guys.

Even the climactic catfight in chiffon doesn’t pay off in “Bride Wars,” a shrill, mechanical comedy dedicated to the proposition that a wedding that doesn’t take place at the Plaza Hotel is scarcely worth having at all. As top-billed Kate Hudson takes a producer credit here, she can no longer blame anyone else for poor scripts she accepts with uncanny consistency — 10 in a row at this point — whereas co-star Anne Hathaway can chalk it up to a well-accoutered payday. Males will be as scarce as hens’ teeth at theaters showing Fox’s first 2009 release, but the prospect of watching the two stars shop, plan and then try to undermine each other’s weddings guarantees a fair portion of the “Sex and the City” audience will consider this a good excuse for a girls’night out.

Script by Greg DePaul and the “Rode Hard and Put Away Wet” and “Saturday Night Live” writing-performing team of Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael pivots on the notion that two lifelong best friends would become mortal enemies because of a wedding scheduling conflict at the hotel where they’ve both always dreamed of getting married. It’s not a pretty picture of enlightened contempo femaleness, but no less believable than anything else in the film — including, in a bit of wishful thinking product placement, the sights of upscale New Yorkers drinking nothing but Budweiser and of a schoolteacher signing on for a deluxe wedding without even inquiring as to the cost.

But then, the movie is already a period piece, made before last September, when price wasn’t an issue. And it certainly isn’t here when it comes to a wedding, an event that arrives at the same time for Liv (Hudson), a steamrolling attorney, and Emma (Hathaway), a demure teacher. However, an uncommon error by their wedding planner (Candice Bergen, neatly injecting a slightly daft note into her imperious character) puts them at odds for what is evidently the single available date at the Plaza for years to come, and Emma decides that, for once, she’s not going to let Liv have her way without a battle.

From the opening bell, director Gary Winick displays exceptional lack of finesse by cutting on cue to whoever is speaking a line; he won’t even hold a two-shot to let some interplay develop. When the girls aren’t reacting to whatever’s going on by saying “Oh, my God!” for the 47th time, space is made for little pop-tune bridges that lead to the film’s few passably amusing scenes, all devoted to mutual sabotage — Emma tries to fatten Liv up by anonymously sending her candies, Liv subverts Emma by injecting orange spray into the latter’s tanning session, Emma crashes Liv’s bachelorette disco/stripper party and gets crowned sexiest bride, et al. — building up to D-Day, June 6, when both weddings are scheduled to take place.

Gilded with innocuous life lessons and no end of couture window dressing, pic will go down easily enough with viewers who know and want what they’re getting into, but is a time-killer for anyone else. Not pushed to hit any notes that aren’t in the script, the capable stars are on autopilot, while stereotypes are overindulged by Kristen Johnston as Emma’s craven, slovenly fellow teacher and Michael Arden as Liv’s gay associate and stand-in “maid of honor.” Tech contributions are passable.

Bride Wars

Production

A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox 2000 Pictures and Regency Enterprises presentation of a New Regency/Birdie/Riche Ludwig production. Produced by Julie Yorn, Kate Hudson, Alan Riche. Executive producers, Arnon Milchan, Jay Cohen, Tony Ludwig, Matt Luber, Jonathan Filley. Co-producer, Devon Wilson. Directed by Gary Winick. Screenplay, Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael; story, DePaul.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Frederick Elmes; editor, Susan Littenberg Hagler; music, Edward Shearmur; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; production designer, Dan Leigh; art director, James Donahue; set decorator, Ron von Blomberg; costume designer, Karen Patch; sound (Dolby/DTS), William Sarokin; supervising sound editor, Susan Dawes; assistant director, Glen M. Trotiner; casting, Jennifer Euston, Marcia DeBonis. Reviewed at Fox Studios, Los Angeles, Jan. 6, 2009. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Liv - Kate Hudson Emma - Anne Hathaway Deb - Kristen Johnston Nate - Bryan Greenberg Fletcher - Chris Pratt
Daniel - Steve Howey Marion - Candice Bergen John - John Pankow Kevin - Michael Arden Amanda - June Diane Raphael Stacy - Casey Wilson Amie - Lauren Bittner Marissa - Hettienne Park Simmons - Bruce Altman

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