After the jump, my review of "Bridesmaids,*" a raunchy, 3-star showcase for Kristen Wiig which is an even better opportunity for Melissa McCarthy ...
The Judd Apatow factory has been known for producing raunchy, often funny but basically guy-centric material for years. "Bridesmaids" breaks that pattern with a movie in which the men are for the most part peripheral, and the women get all the best (and grossest) lines. More to the point, it is at once loaded with big laughs and respectful of its characters; as odd as they may be, the performances and Paul Feig's direction make them still say on the right side of real.
Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the movie) stars as Annie, a woman who has lost interest in just about everything after the failure of a bakery she owned. Her job stinks, her semi-boyfriend (Jon Hamm) is a jerk, her roommates just peculiar. The best thing in Annie's life is her best friend Lil (Maya Rudolph). But Lil gets engaged to a rich guy, and Annie finds herself trying to stay close to a friend who is moving into a very different social and financial class; even worse, that group includes Helen (Rose Byrne), who is determined to be Lil's newest and best friend.
While trying to help plan Lil's wedding, Annie has to contend not only with Annie but with the other bridesmaids, played by comedy pros Melissa McCarthy (currently on "Mike & Molly"), Ellie Kemper ("The Office") and Wendi McLendon-Covey ("Reno 911!"). McCarthy, blunt and plain-dressing, is the funniest of the lot by far, and this is a great break from the sweet characters McCarthy has played on "Gilmore Girls" and "M&M" (although Molly gets her tough-talking moments). More important, she and the other characters are allowed little bits of realism -- even Helen's life is less than ideal -- without overwhelming the comedic bent of the movie. There's a scene, for example, where Annie loses her temper and launches into a long round of slapsticky behavior -- but at no point do you forget how furious she is. And her rage there is made even more evident in Lil's response; Lil is, after all, the most grounded character in the movie -- and Rudolph plays her beautifully.
Oh, the movie has its flaws. There's a romantic plot involving Annie and a police officer (Chris O'Dowd) which drags some -- although it does set up one of the funniest scenes in the movie -- and some of the early scenes go on too long, like improv that no one is willing to stop.
But there are other virtues, including a Wiig performance that lets Annie have her petty side but does not fall into the pit of audience-annoying where Wiig's "SNL" characters often live. Indeed, the cast is so deep, I wished for more from some members -- Franklyn Ajaye, playing Lil's father, appears far too briefly. I laughed hard and often, smiled frequently, and still felt as if I had watched something that -- like, say, "Superbad" -- was far more than a cartoon. Good stuff, 3 stars.
*We ran a wire review in the Beacon Journal on Thursday because representatives of the movie insisted that local reviews be embargoed until today.