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MOVIE REVIEW

Wedding sendup 'Confetti' flutters harmlessly

Weddings can be a peculiar form of self-inflicted torture: They're carnivals staged for the pleasure of everyone except the couple in the center ring. They have their practical applications -- if you can survive the stress of getting married, you can probably survive the marriage itself -- but as spectacle, they're best approached from the outside.

``Confetti," a good-natured but terminally mild British mockumentary from writer-director Debbie Isitt, believes that if one nuptial disaster is funny, three are funnier, and so it stages a ``Most Original Wedding of the Year" contest between a trio of happy, nervous couples. The sponsor is the (fictional) bride magazine Confetti, the prize a starter home. The contestants, selected by the editors after too many glasses of lunchtime merlot, have chosen visual themes unbounded by taste.

Matt (Martin Freeman, of the original British version of ``The Office") and Sam (Jessica Stevenson) want a musical wedding with Busby Berkeley choreography and top hat and tails -- no matter that Sam has ``physical dyslexia." (Translation: ``She's, um, clumsy.") Type-A jocks Josef (Stephen Mangan) and Isabelle (Meredith MacNeill) intend to cream the competition with their tennis-themed ceremony. Naturists Michael (Robert Webb) and Joanne (Olivia Coleman) plan an all-nude wedding, and imperious Confetti editor Vivienne (Felicity Montagu) realizes with a shock that ``nude" does in fact mean ``no clothes."

The film's conceit is that we're watching a film crew capture the bickering as each couple stumbles toward the altar, alternately aided and obstructed by Archie (Vincent Franklin) and Gregory (Jason Watkins), partners in life and wedding planning. These two harried sprites try to come up with a ``March of the Ball Boys" for Josef and Isabelle while frantically scheming to cover Michael's naughty bits at the last minute.

``Confetti" is cute and exasperating and, in the end, not nearly lunatic enough; it's a Christopher Guest movie without the fangs. Of the three couples, Matt and Sam are the most user-friendly -- Freeman gets genuine laughs when he blows his top at his meddling future mother-in-law (Alison Steadman) -- and Josef and Isabelle the most interestingly uncomfortable. MacNeill makes the latter both lovely and scary; as Isabelle caves in to a particularly cruel demand of Vivienne's, her eyes take on the classic stalked-deer glaze of brides everywhere.

Isitt toys with the comedy of masochism here, but she likes her characters too much to dig in, and the film ultimately paints itself into a softhearted corner: It's diverting where it could have been liberating. The great wedding comedy -- compassionate and brutal in equal measure -- has yet to be made. In ``Confetti," it's all over but the catering.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com.

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