BRIDESMAIDS. To be truthful, Bridesmaids had a lot going against it for this viewer. For one thing, to quote the Journal's preview, it's being touted as a "would-be The Hangover for chicks," and The Hangover ranks very high on my all-time worst-film list. For another thing, the stars are from Saturday Night Live, and I've yet to see a SNL spin-off film that was even vaguely interesting. As it turns out, seeing the film overrode my preconceived biases. Bridesmaids, while a mixed success, actually contained some genuine humor and an interesting story. For those expecting a female Hangover, while the film has its share of crude behavior, much of it from Melissa McCarthy (Life As We Know It), the women have a long way to go to sink to dick-flick depths.
Much of the film's success, including its best humor, is due to Kristen Wiig (also a co-screenwriter), whom I have never seen on SNL, as I don't watch the show. Despite the Bridesmaids title, it is really the story of Annie (Wiig), a financially down-and-out woman trying to keep up appearances as maid of honor for her best friend, Lillian (SNL's Maya Rudolph), who has moved up in the world economically. It doesn't help that the wealthy and attractive Helen (Rose Byrne, who made it through several seasons on Damages without smiling and continues that trait here), a more recent friend of Lillian's, wishes to be the maid of honor herself and does everything possible to alienate Lillian from Annie.
Helen has a lot of help from Annie herself in this regard. In a peculiar way, Annie is a modern-day Job with troubles piling up until it appears she might sink from view. Before the story opens, she has seen her bakery business fold. She lives with an insufferable Australian and his equally irritating sister who eventually ask her leave, forcing her to live with her mother (nicely played by the late Jill Clayburgh). She finds work in a jewelry store but fails to make sales because she insults her potential customers, at one point telling a teen trying to buy a bracelet for her "best friend forever" that she should reconsider using the word "forever." She also blows off the one guy who seems just right for her, a cop nicely and goofily played by Chris O'Dowd. Finally, she loses it at the bachelorette party organized by Helen, resulting in her being uninvited to the wedding. She ends up, seemingly, without any friends, male or female. But this is a romantic comedy, so we know that this low point simply serves as the beginning of a new comeback. What makes Wiig so effective as a comic actor is her underlying but never overwhelming sarcasm, which gives even the most banal scenes an edge. At the same time, Wiig also pulls off the serious moments with ease.
Bridesmaids is far from perfect. Despite the through-line supplied by Annie's struggles, the film is a series of vignettes, many of which continue way past their comic shelf-life, a factor that leads to an overly long two-hour-plus running time. The crude humor seems by-the-numbers Apatow Productions. The best moments are when Wiig is one-on-one with other characters, particularly the scenes in the jewelry store. Wiig's performance almost makes me want to check out SNL again. Almost. Rated R for some strong sexuality and language throughout. 125m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.
PRIEST. As I sat in the theater watching this science fiction/western/vampire/supernatural/post-apocolyptic/action/rip-off film, I idly wondered who the intended audience was. Then, as the film wended its predictable way to the climactic showdown, I started to daydream that I might be transported to some sort of film Neverland where theatres showed mature films that included a worthwhile story, character development, competent acting, unexpected twists, complex relationships and the like.
The story here involves a trio of heroes: Paul Bettany, once again playing a Roman Catholic priest as he did in The Da Vinci Code, a priestess played by Maggie Q in skin-tight leathers, and a sheriff (Cam Gigandet), teamed to save the priest's kidnapped niece (Lily Collins) and what is left of civilization from a "human vampire" (Karl Urban). There's lots of CGI and stark landscape and some motorcycles. I have nothing against Maggie Q in leathers, but she has even nicer outfits in the CW series Nikita, where she actually has a chance to act. Rated PG-13. 88m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek (2-D) and Fortuna (3-D).
-- Charlie Myers
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. Fourth in the Disney franchise finds Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) teamed with an ex-girlfriend (Penélope Cruz) in a quest for the Fountain of Youth -- in 3-D. Zombies, mermaids and Blackbeard (Ian McShane) show up along the way. 137m. Rated PG-13 for action/adventure violence. Thursday midnight at the Broadway and the Fortuna (in 3-D), Mill Creek and the Minor in 2-D.
TANK GIRL. Girl-power sci-fi based on a Brit comic book, directed by Rachel Talalay. Lori Petty stars as Tank Girl Rebecca Buck, a punky feminist superhero fighting to save the environment in the face of an evil bureaucracy. Friday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge (ATL).
THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN. Muppet master Jim Henson's last film; Frank Oz directs the tale that finds Kermit, Miss Piggy and company biting the Big Apple while trying to mount a Broadway musical. Sunday at ATL.
SCI-FI PINT'N'PIZZA NIGHT. Two takes on the underworld: MACISTE IN HELL, a trippy Italian silent based on Dante's Inferno, with muscleman Bartolomeo Pagano going to Hell where he punches out Satan's demons. Paired with GOOD AGAINST EVIL a '70s TV pilot borrowing from The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, about a writer and an exorcist priest battling Devil worshipers and Satan. Next Wednesday at ATL.
-- Bob Doran
AFRICAN CATS. Samuel L. Jackson narrates this family-friendly documentary about big cats on the savanna. Rated G. 89m. At the Broadway.
FAST FIVE. Vin Diesel steals more cars. The Rock tries to stop him. Rated R. 130m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
HANNA. A young girl is trained by her father as the world's greatest assassin and then travels across Europe kicking ass. Rated PG-13. 111m. At the Broadway.
HOODWINKED TOO! More CGI fairytale mashups! Rated PG. 85m. At the Broadway.
RIO. A domesticated Macaw named Blu believes he is the last of his kind, until he hears there may be another Macaw in Rio de Janeiro. Vacation! Rated G. 99m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, Garberville and Mill Creek.
SOMETHING BORROWED. Things you shouldn't borrow: Your friend's fiance. Rated PG-13. 113m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
SOUL SURFER. True story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a shark. Rated PG. 106m. At the Broadway.
THOR. Powerful but arrogant warrior, whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war, is cast down to Earth to live among humans. Running out of comic books. Rated PG-13. 117m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson fall in love because of their compassion for a special circus elephant. Rated PG-13. 121m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.