5/22/2008

Movie Review: Made of Honor (2008)

Director: Paul Weiland

Now Available on DVD & Blu-ray



Filmgoers did a double take in the 1990s when, in trading in a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots for a Mets cap and sneakers, Billy Crystal became a short comedian in the saddle in City Slickers. As unlikely as that image seemed at the time, it made far more sense to see Crystal in cowboy mode in director Paul Weiland’s sequel City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold and much less sense when Grey’s Anatomy doc McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) decides to stop a wedding by commandeering a horse in Weiland’s latest release Made of Honor. While it’s par for the romantic comedy course to end genre offerings with either the hero or heroine physically chasing down their love via taxis, airplanes, bicycles, etc. and the director at least gets credit for trying to add whimsy to the mix, for Honor's finale, coming off the heels of several clich├ęs in a row, the only way the sequence would have seemed original is if suddenly Crystal had popped up on the screen looking for another western adventure.



Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by the first hour of the film, which, similar to the other recent lackluster romantic comedy, What Happens in Vegas, reels us in with enough high energy and laughs to keep us interested until they realize we’ve taken the bait, and then instead of continuing to fish, the filmmakers slowly drop us further into the lake. This being said and intriguingly for someone who has never seen an entire episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I was more taken in by Made than Vegas, perhaps due to the sheer charm of the two affable leads played by the aforementioned Dempsey as well as the terrific Michelle Monaghan who’d first impressed me a few years back in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Similar to her Kiss costar Robert Downey Jr., the visible roughly decade age difference between Monaghan and Dempsey seems overly conspicuous when we realize that (again like Kiss) they’re playing former classmates, but because they seem to genuinely spark with one another, it’s easy to forgive.



Opening in 1998 at Cornell University, the philandering ladies man senior student Tom (Dempsey) meets cute with worldly, mature freshman Hannah (Monaghan) by mistaking her bed for that of her skanky roommate. Impervious to his unoriginal advances, Tom’s flirtation turns to fascination when the refreshingly honest Hannah calls him on his game and we cut to the duo ten years later as they’ve become best friends in a slightly codependent relationship-- more intimate than most marriages, yet completely platonic as a heterosexual version of Will and Grace.



Now in contemporary New York and having become successfully wealthy after inventing a “coffee collar,” man-whore Tom still chases anything in a skirt despite keeping commitment at bay while ridiculously adhering to lecherous self-imposed rules. And luckily for Tom, his favorite girl Friday, the art restorer Hannah seems all too happy to be his backup date when it matters most such as attending the sixth wedding of his father (a hilarious Sydney Pollack).

Although unlike Will and Grace yet predictably as research indicates that a majority of friendships contain some level of attraction, we suspect that Monaghan may want more out of her relationship. However a possibly awkward conversation is cut short when she journeys to Scotland for a six week work trip. Unsurprisingly, absence makes Tom’s heart grow fonder when he realizes that the bimbos he beds just don't interest him as much as Hannah but he’s in for a rude awakening when she returns engaged following a whirlwind “Bronte” inspired courtship with the unspeakably dull yet attractive Colin (Kevin McKidd). When Tom is asked to serve as Hannah’s "Moh" (Maid of Honor), his friends encourage him to sabotage the event from inside but when the annoyingly flawless Colin can’t be knocked from Hannah’s pedestal, Tom decides instead to leave character attacks out of the mix and try to prove to his best friend that he’s the one who is Made of Honor.

While less enjoyable than the unchallenging yet adorable Wedding Planner yet far better than Julia Roberts’s overwhelmingly mean-spirited My Best Friend’s Wedding, Honor benefits from its gender reversal twist. Unfortunately, as soon as the film substitutes its New York setting for fairy tale Scotland as the wedding draws nearer, the brains of the screenwriters must have fallen asleep as the film continues in auto-pilot, predictably hitting turbulence and cheap laughs for the rest of what felt like an overwhelmingly bloated running time (yet in reality was just 101 minutes).



Still, it's not as horrid as most critics would have you believe and the two actors try to get as much mileage out of the material and their underwritten, bland characters as they can and it’s half successful, until-- and echoing the predictable conclusion-- all the stops (and horses) are pulled to try and ruin things from turning “happily ever after.”