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f4133_bridesmaids-1-912409The big mistake people will make about “Bridesmaids,” a new comedy starring an ensemble of female comedians headed by Kristen Wiig, is that it is a chick flick or a female version of “The Hangover.” It has elements of both, but is closer in spirit to “Knocked Up” or “The Forty Year Old Virgin;” heartfelt comedies that place the characters first and the laughs second.

When we first meet Annie (Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the script), her life is in tatters. Her business is a victim of a downturned economy and her boyfriend (Jon Hamm) calls her his “number three.” When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks Annie to be her maid of honor she should be thrilled but is overwhelmed by the job and her fellow bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) or as Lillian calls them, the “stone cold pack of weirdoes.”

Kristen Wiig was the best thing to happen to “Saturday Night Live” in years but her big screen output has been somewhat underwhelming. In movies like “MacGruber” and “Paul” it always felt to me like she was simply acting in a long form sketch. She’s always funny, but I never felt like there was a real depth of character there. Until “Bridesmaids” that is. Her work as the neurotic but mostly well meaning Annie is a breakthrough, proving that being funny and having feelings are not mutually exclusive.

The rest of the cast impresses as well. Like Wiig, Rudolph has both the comedic and dramatic chops to make us laugh and care about the characters, and Rose Byrne steps outside of the dramas we’re used to seeing her in to deliver a subdued but very funny performance. Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, virtually the only male actor to utter a line apart from Jon Hamm in a raunchy cameo, brings an enormous amount of charm to the role of Rhodes, the lovelorn cop. There’s good chemistry all round, a key element that prevents the story from veering into rom com territory.

So far I’ve talked about “feelings” and used words like “heartfelt” to describe “Bridesmaids,” but don’t get me wrong, this is still a wild comedy. It doesn’t out-raunch the “Hangover” guys, but there are bodily function jokes a plenty, one very funny sex scene and language that would make a teamster blush. The girls can throw it down with the guys, but somehow it’s not as gross. Much of it is still gross, just not as gross.

“Bridesmaids” is the funniest movie so far this year and should appeal to everyone, not just women.

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