Going to the movies in January means suffering through an annual Hollywood holiday hangover; all the good stuff—the Daniel Day-Lewis performances, the sweeping period love stories, the Coen brothers—gets shoved to the side for flicks like National Treasure 2, and Alvin and the Chipmunks (both in the top five this past weekend). It’s grim out there (for example, while sitting through a packed AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator Requiem showing last week, the biggest laughs came from a pizza joke—“I guess we know who ordered the sausage lover’s”—and when one character said we could always trust in our government. Yup, it’s like that.)
Gunning for the soft romantic comedy audience this month is 27 Dresses. The film is billed as being from the screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada (Aline Brosh McKenna), and stars Katherine Heigl of Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up fame. The movie treads along the well-worn path of the rom-com formula: people-pleasing girl is the literal bridesmaid-never-the-bride, in unrequited love with her boss (Edward Burns), who falls for her sexpot younger sister (Malin Ackerman), and she’s forced to help plan their nuptials while meeting cynical marriage-hating “New York Journal” ‘Commitments’ reporter (a sparkly-eyed James Marsden). There’s the obligatory montage of Ms. Heigl trying on various bridesmaids monstrosities, a misunderstanding, a misrepresentation, a boozy (and super-fun-looking) night out involving singing Elton John, and yes, of course, a wedding at the end. If you’re a fan of the genre, the movie is a pleasant if unsurprising coast to the finish, elevated by the charm of Ms. Heigl. Like with Knocked Up, there’s a leap of audience belief in imagining the gorgeous and charismatic actress being the girl not chosen, but Ms. Heigl manages to bring real charm and humor to the part, positioning her nicely for future leading-lady glory (look out, Sandra Bullock!). And while there’s plenty of stuff any sane woman might take issue with where the worshiping-at-the-wedding-industry-alter is concerned (Ms. Heigl’s character goes so far as to clip particularly well-written ‘Commitments’ columns … written by guess who!), there are plenty of winning scenes to counteract the premise, and Ms. Heigl and Mr. Marsden have crackling onscreen chemistry to boot. (Does this guy just get hotter or what?) The two adolescent girls sitting in front of The Observer seemed particularly enthralled, which may be a good indication of the movie’s intended audience and success.
27 Dresses opens on Friday, January 18.
FIRST SUNDAY, STARRING Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan, is a movie that wants to be a screwball comedy, a caper and a feel-good inspirational tale all at once but feels fairly predictable (but not in a comforting rom-com way) and, more often than not, is not so funny. The two men play best friends down on their luck and needing cash fast to pay off a debt (something to do with Jamaicans and tricked out wheelchairs—don’t ask), so somehow they decide to rob their neighborhood church. Unfortunately, after breaking in, they discover that someone has beaten them to it, and they’re unwittingly left holding hostages. We have one friend who has sworn for years that Ice Cube is the actor of our generation, and while we won’t go that far, we will admit that he does manage to emerge from this one fairly unscathed (though we’re guessing he can play a toughie-with-a-soft-center in his sleep). Not so much for Tracy Morgan, who has a couple of good laughs but even more clunkers, and seems to be doing a retread of his 30 Rock character, Tracy Jordan. Though maybe Tracy Morgan really is his 30 Rock character, in which case he’s always just playing himself, which is really just as terrifying. (See last Sunday’s New York Times “Night Out With.” Yikes). The supporting cast of characters, including Loretta Devine, Michael Beach, Keith David, Regina Hall, Katt Williams (stuck playing a flamboyant choir director and therefore must deliver easy-mark homosexual jokes) and Chi McBride, do their best, but ultimately the movie feels slightly off-tempo. The film is written and directed by David E. Talbert, who comes from the world of theater, and produced by Tim Story of Barbershop fame. Save your money and wait for it to air on USA.
First Sunday opens this Friday at Regal E-Walk Times Square.