Every summer it seems like we get one legitimately great, out-of-the-box comedy hit that rises high above all the junk around it. In past years there was "The Hangover" or "Wedding Crashers." This year, it was "Bridesmaids." At the time of its release, the film was celebrated because it proved that audiences would support a female-driven comedy, which shouldn't have been a big deal but was. Now that it's one of the most successful films of 2011 and is out on DVD, is it OK to admit that the movie (as fun as it is) is actually ... a little overrated?
Directed by Paul Feig, "Bridesmaids" has such a simple, winning hook that it's somewhat amazing no one had bothered trying to do it before. Annie (Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the script) is a down-on-her-luck single gal whose best friend Lillian (an underused Maya Rudolph) is about to marry her rich, handsome, wonderful boyfriend. But Annie feels disconnected to Lillian and her new country-club life, especially when Lillian's upper-crust friend Helen (Rose Byrne) keeps insinuating herself into the maid-of-honor duties, which are supposed to be Annie's.
Currently the 10th biggest movie of the year -- making more than the "X-Men" prequel or "Super 8" -- "Bridesmaids" flipped the script on the now-familiar raunchy, R-rated bromance comedies where a bunch of dudes do lewd, crude things for the audience's amusement. With "Bridesmaids," it's the gals' turn, and while there's something liberating about the gender switch, well, weren't we all getting tired of this routine when the guys were doing it? "Bridesmaids" doesn't exactly elevate or improve on the formula: It just replaces male characters with female ones.
With its sweet, goofy romance -- Chris O'Dowd is great as Annie's love interest -- and its vague attempts at dramatizing how marriage can drive a wedge between longtime friends, "Bridesmaids" is several notches smarter than most studio comedies. (And considering how painfully unfunny a lot of the later summer movies were -- "The Change-Up," "Bad Teacher" -- "Bridesmaids" deserves an Oscar much less than it does a MacArthur Genius Award.) But as much as people were surprised that a comedy starring women could be a hit, I couldn't help but wish "Bridesmaids" was a little more than just a female-driven "Wedding Crashers." Rather than being some sort of comedy landmark, "Bridesmaids" seems like the first step toward some real gender equality for studio laffers. In other words, I think "Bridesmaids" is good, but my hunch is that this movie's real achievement will be how it opens the door for a truly brilliant female comedy.