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Movie Review

Bride Wars

You may diss the bride: Friends become enemies in a chick flick with a mean streak

Kate Hudson (left) and Anne Hathaway portray two wedding-obsessed women in ''Bride Wars.'' Kate Hudson (left) and Anne Hathaway portray two wedding-obsessed women in ''Bride Wars.'' (Claire folger/fox 2000 pictures)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / January 9, 2009
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Ah, January - that chilly, unforgiving season when the major studios flush their pipes and unleash their failed projects - the lame, halt, and blind of movies - upon an enervated public.

First out of the sluiceway is "Bride Wars." It's a chick flick; nothing wrong with that. But it's also a chick flick that makes its chick characters - and by extension its chick audience - look like hateful, backward toddlers, and there is something wrong with that.

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson play Emma and Liv, Manhattan career girls and BFFs who've shared an obsession with the perfect wedding ever since their moms took them to lunch at the Plaza's Palm Court when they were little. (Curiously, aside from Central Park and a few other exteriors, most of the film was shot in Boston, which will cause cognitive dissonance among local moviegoers, patrons of Les Zygomates, Red Sox players whose wives turn up as extras, and absolutely no one else. It's official, then: We're Toronto.)

Liv's the Veronica in this twosome - a fire-breathing corporate lawyer used to getting her own way - and Emma, a demure public school teacher, is the Betty. Even that's overselling the thing: "Bride Wars" is so numbingly giddy it makes "Archie" look like Sartre. The two get engaged to their respective boyfriends (played by Steve Howey and Chris Pratt, neither of them well-known or charismatic enough to upstage the stars), and end up having their weddings scheduled for the same date, time, and place. Let the sabotage begin.

The midsection of "Bride Wars," as Emma discovers her inner meanie and Liv enlists her personal assistant (Michael Arden) in the campaign, has a few spiteful laughs. Liv sends Emma daily chocolates so she'll bust out of her Vera Wang; Emma spikes the tanning salon formula so Liv looks like a Cheeto; Liv crashes Emma's bachelorette party at a male stripper club. And so on.

First of all, though, what New York power lawyer is going to have her bachelorette party at a male strip club? Second of all, do little girls - actual human ones, that is - still dream their weddings down to the last detail except for the guy? Did they ever? I know, it's a movie, but a movie has to have one foot in believability, or, heaven forbid, characters who aren't self-absorbed dolts.

So you take the crumbs: Kristen Johnston hamming it up as Emma's boozy co-worker and last-minute maid of honor; Candice Bergen stooping to her role as the city's top wedding planner with a frozen smile. Among its other sillinesses, "Bride Wars" has a fear of larger-than-average rumps that extends to the dialogue and an inability to photograph Bergen below the waist. (At one point she's posed behind a chair so as not to scare the children.) This may be the first chick flick that's actively bulimic.

Director Gary Winick hits all the farcical beats, but the script's too clueless and mean-spirited - about marriage, about men, about female friendship - to take off. Even given a dopey last-minute plot twist, Hathaway survives on her Keane-eyed poise. Hudson, though, can't make Liv likable or even interesting. Even her bangs are shrewish.

Worse, there's no natural chemistry between her and Hathaway. How are these two even friends? When all is said and done, "Bride Wars" is structured as a romance between two straight girlfriends - that's why all the men look like interchangeable underwear models - but there's no emotional connection to tie it together. It's a love story about two women who only love themselves.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

BRIDE WARS

Directed by: Gary Winick

Written by: Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen, Kristen Johnston

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 90 minutes

Rated: PG (suggestive content, some language, rude behavior)

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