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bride-wars-1024The only thing more popular than going to a wedding is going to see a wedding on the big screen. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of the highest grossing independent films ever and movies like The Wedding Singer, Father of the Bride and Four Weddings and a Funeral have ridden the bridal train all the way to the top of the box office. This weekend 20th Century Fox is hoping that a combination of bridal bouquets and star power will pack ‘em in to see Bride Wars, a new comedy starring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway.

They play Liv and Emma, childhood friends with the shared fantasy of June weddings at The Plaza Hotel. When it comes time to tie the knot with their respective fiancées it looks as though that dream will finally come true. Dates are booked, dresses are purchased and flowers ordered. Everything is perfect until a scheduling error is discovered—their wedding dates had been booked for the same day—and one of them must change to another venue. When neither is willing to move dirty nuptial tricks ensue and the bride wars begin.

Bride Wars is like an extended episode of Bridezillas with more appealing leads. The old cliché about temperamental brides is amplified by a thousand, pushing the limits of how far brides will go to make sure their perfect days is, in fact perfect.

Even though it is set in a world were being engaged is the most important thing in a woman’s life—just one of many old fashioned ideas wedged into the script—the movie isn’t really about weddings, or the horrible things these two do to one another. It’s actually about friendship and finding a person who will always love you no matter what. It’s a good thing there’s some weightier subtext here because the comedy side of things pretty much falls flat.

Kate Hudson can do this sort of material in her sleep, and brings some energy and charm to the role but little else. Candice Bergen continues her winning ways as a supporting actor who steals every scene she’s in. As in The Women and Sex and the City she provides the film’s best line—it begins with, “A wedding marks the first day of the rest of your life… you have been dead until now…”—and generally shows up the younger actors in every scene.

As for Anne Hathaway, Bride Wars feels like a giant step backward after her delicate and layered performance in Rachel Getting Married. I know girls just wanna have fun, and after serious turns in Rachel and the psychological thriller Passengers she perhaps was looking to hone her comedy chops, but Bride Wars plays along the same lines as a sitcom and we’ve simply come to expect more from her.

There is even some talk in the blogosphere that this stale performance could actually harm her chances with Oscar voters à la the Eddie Murphy Norbit snafu. Many blame his failure to take home an Oscar for his work in Dreamgirls on Norbit, which was released the same weekend that many voters were filling out their ballots. Let’s hope the Academy gets it right this time and chooses to celebrate Hathaway’s star turn in Rachel and not punish her for taking on thoroughly average work like Bride Wars.

Bride Wars marks the beginning of the January doldrums. After an exciting movie season that saw the release of interesting movies like The Wrestler it’s always a bit of a slap in the face when the b-material gets dumped into theatres. Bride Wars is little more than a sitcom premise stretched to feature length.

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