Looking Ahead to the January Doldrums

by |
12/08/2008 2:00 PM |

In which Jesse Hassenger comes to wonder who could possibly want to see movies like this (a question many of us have been asking for years).

One of the more endearing quirks of movie studio release schedules is how imitative they are — it’s mostly marketing and unimaginative thinking, of course, but sometimes studios start little unofficial traditions beyond just releasing Spider-Man movies on the first weekend in May. A recent Entertainment Weekly piece on Meryl Streep, for example, pointed out that following the summer successes of The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia! her next mainstream movie, Julie and Julia, has been penciled into an August 2009 release (no word on whether it will continue the tradition of being lousy). I guess the idea is that moviegoers will recall the pleasurable experience of watching a certain type of movie at a certain type of year, and will be more likely to get the Meryl Streep itch when the weather is warm, or something.

This seems to be the thinking behind the release of Bride Wars, coming January 9th in the tradition of last year’s wedding-themed January rom-com 27 Dresses. I’m not saying this movie looks particularly classy, at all (in fact, more on that in a moment), but it does star Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, the sum of which I think we can all agree is greater than or equal to Katherine Heigl (for Anne’s Oscar chances, let’s hope “greater than”). Normally this seems like the type of movie that gets released in, say, February, or maybe September. Hell, with Hathaway coming off of several popular hits and some critical acclaim, summer wouldn’t be out of the question.

But Bride Wars is treading into January, once the province of wide releases about either people (mostly teenagers) getting murdered by ghosts and/or humans, or people (mostly teenagers) engaging in some kind of all-important competitive dancing, and oh my lord, why has no one made a movie that combines slashing and dancing yet, note to self: sell that movie and get really rich.

Until that happens, let’s think some more about Bride Wars.

You can watch the trailer for yourself:

So it’s about how Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson are lifelong best friends with the same dream: to waste an insane amount of money on a wedding ceremony involving a blandly attractive man. Only they accidentally get booked at the same venue on the same day, and the easy path towards a teary double wedding is met with much competitive lollygagging which would conservatively be labeled broad and generously be labeled comedy. Fine, it looks really terrible, kind of offensive, waste of Hathaway and even Hudson.

To me, the difference between this (which I haven’t seen) and 27 Dresses (which I have) doesn’t seem all that great. Sure, the 27 Dresses trailer was a little bit less screechy, but it hits more or less the same buttons, with a lower-wattage cast. That movie was a pretty big hit and I would assume that Bride Wars could at least match the money made by that or, say, Fool’s Gold.

And yet: an informal poll of my female friends indicates almost across-the-board revulsion for Bride Wars. You could argue that I, as a smart-ass L Magazine writer, have sort of a self-selecting group of smarter, savvier female friends than, say, the people commenting on that YouTube video expressing their excitement, and, as such, I’ve self-selected a sample that has limited interest in bad wedding-themed romantic comedies.

You’d be right about the smarter/savvier part. But another, separate informal poll indicates a majority of my female friends have, indeed, at some point, seen 27 Dresses. Many of them saw it in the theater, and if they were too ashamed to see it there, there’s always the sweet red-enveloped anonymity of Netflix. A lot of smart women enjoy these stupid fast-food romantic comedies, the same way a lot of smart dudes enjoy stupid fast-food action movies (and, of course, lots of people of both genders vice-versa blah blah blah).

But as far as I know, I don’t have a single friend who wants to go see Bride Wars. I can’t pretend this means much, but when I’ve heard quiet admissions that someone or other would, yes, sneak into the equally screechy-looking Confessions of a Shopaholic to peep Isla Fisher’s adorability, yet not a single word of support for Bride Wars, I take notice. Looking over the list of 2008’s top-grossing movies so far, you have to go pretty far down to find a non-children’s movie that I could honestly say no one I know has ever expressed any interest in seeing (actually, that movie might be Fool’s Gold, so maybe it’s a Kate Hudson problem — but assuming I know some people who could stomach it based on toned bodies alone, you have to go down Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, total domestic gross $42 million).

I truly believe, then, that there’s something especially powerful about Bride Wars. Is it that the title and concept inch all that much closer to something you might fabricate in order to make fun of this type of movie? (Mine is called The Wedding Marriage.) Is it the way the women are pitted against each other before they can even establish banal personality differences? Is it the trailer’s failure to mention that it’s from the director of 13 Going on 30?

The bigger question: is this it? Is this the point where screechy, acquisition-based, sexist, pandering, sitcom-style wedding-themed comedies finally go out of style? Will this mostly loathsome subgenre somehow be snuffed out by what sounds like a no-brainer can’t-miss license to print pink bedazzled money? If the genre crashes and burns, will studio title gurus breathe a sigh of relief, now that The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Singer, The Wedding Date, and Wedding Crashers have all been claimed?

Or will America reject Bride Wars only to fall back in love with its low-rent miscreant cousin:

Let’s hear it, ladies. Is Bride Wars the final straw, and what are you going to do about it?