If Judge Judy is to be believed, a significant number of real wedding ceremonies are pretty miserable affairs, but whatever the percentage might be, it pales beside that of movies about weddings that turn out to be miseries for the audience. Here’s another. Two best-friend brides-to-be turn into shrieking, squabbling rivals when they find their long-planned New York nuptials mis-scheduled for the same day at their cherished Plaza and try to outmaneuver each other for the much-coveted slot. That’s the plot of “Bride Wars,” a shrill, silly and terribly unfunny piece of tit-for-tat—or in this case maybe just tit-for-tit—slapstick of the sort that, to be perfectly honest, Laurel and Hardy did far better.
In this case, though, instead of Stan and Ollie we get Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, as Liv and Emma, the former a hard-driving lawyer and the latter a mousy teacher, long-time chums who are initially happy as clams over the fact that they’re both getting hitched but become frantic competitors when their blissful plans are derailed by bureaucratic bungling. Their shenanigans—which include sabotaging each other’s wedding plans in every conceivable fashion—are supposed to be scabrously humorous, but come across as merely nasty and dumb. And in the process the women prove themselves such monomaniacal harridans that you have to wonder why their respective beaus Daniel and Fletcher (Steve Howey and Chris Pratt) don’t dump them both, especially since there’s an easy and obvious solution to the problem—a double ceremony—that’s mentioned early on and, given the duo’s supposed camaraderie, should have been a no-brainer.
Instead it’s the picture that’s a no-brainer, in the most literal sense. Hudson and Hathaway may both be engaging young women, but as two idiotic characters they’re reduced to the most shameless mugging and strident shouting, and instead of exuding any charm they’re intensely irritating even in the first reel, before the combat begins. They’re surrounded by a raft of stereotypical supporting characters, most of them archly played, including—heaven help us—Liv’s gay assistant (Michael Arden) who becomes her second-choice maid of honor. A few moments of throwaway humor are provided by vets Candice Bergen and Kristen Johnson, the former as a wedding planner and the latter as Emma’s wry teaching colleague (and substitute maid of honor), but that’s the extent of the virtues in a movie that also happens to be sloppily directed by Gary Winick and shot with a decided lack of elegance by Frederick Elmes.
By the teary, faux sentimental close in which Liv’s ultra-nice-guy brother Nate (Bryan Greenberg) plays a major role, it’s become obvious that the picture itself should have been thrown away like a dried-out bridal bouquet or a stale wedding cake. The Big Day in the movie is June 6, but the historical reference is distinctly misleading; unlike World War II but like so many others, this is a war nobody wins—and in which it’s the audience that suffers most. You leave this chick flick disaster feeling like an escapee from a POW camp.