Christopher Hitchens famously asserted in a 2007 Vanity Fair piece that women are not funny. If that was a dubious contention then, it’s an utterly indefensible one today. Tina Fey is single-handedly responsible for one of the funniest shows currently on the air, and, along with cowriter Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig has now concocted the year’s funniest film.
Bridesmaids revolves around the character she plays. Annie is a Milwaukee thirtysomething whose life has hit a rough patch. The recession shut down the bakery shop she started, reducing her to working as a clerk in a jewelry store. Because her boyfriend just dumped her, she tends to scare off couples shopping for, say, engagement rings by venting her cynical views on romance.
Among the film’s trove of random warped touches is Annie’s living situation: For reasons that never become clear, she shares an apartment with gnome-like British siblings. The one thing in her world that’s functional and a source of reliable joy is her lifelong friendship with Lillian, played by real-life pal Maya Rudolph. Just when she thinks things couldn’t get any worse, Lillian gets engaged, and Annie’s expected to put on a happy face and act as maid of honor.
Director Paul Feig, creator of the television series “Freaks and Geeks,” deftly introduces the various members of the bridal party. He does a commendable job of controlling the flow of traffic so that each of these singular creations has enough screen time to come into focus without compromising the momentum of Annie’s emotional meltdown.
Standouts include Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the mother of three teenage boys, who complains that her “house is covered in semen”; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy of TV’s “Mike & Molly”), the groom’s sister, who suggests a female Zach Galifianakis. When the time arrives to plan the bridal shower party, the latter proposes a Fight Club theme.
Rose Byrne costars as Helen, a pampered control freak whom Annie quickly comes to view as a rival. One of the picture’s first big laughs happens during Lillian’s engagement party when Annie and Helen offer dueling toasts, neither willing to let the other have the last sentimental word.
And the laughs just keep coming as Wiig and Mumolo take all the conventions of the wedding movie, turn them inside out and twist them into deliriously demented moments unlike anything we’ve previously seen. If you think I’m exaggerating, ask someone who’s seen the film about the bridal shower food-poisoning sequence. You’ve watched “Say Yes to the Dress”? Welcome to “Say Yes to the Mess.” It’s guaranteed to go down in history as one of cinema’s truly timeless gross-out scenes.
Bridesmaids is so good, so relentlessly original, that it would be wrong to give away more. Suffice it to say the writing is inspired, and every performance is loopy perfection. I should point out that Judd Apatow served as producer. He invited Wiig to pitch him ideas after being knocked out by her work in Knocked Up. And his influence is evident throughout, in the sense that Wiig and Mumolo rework the formula he’s popularized, crossing the chick flick with the raunch comedy. The result is a marriage made in Hollywood heaven.
* Running time: 125 min.
* Rated: R