The second wedding-centric "comedy" I've seen this year is the new release Made of Honor, and like the first one, Over Her Dead Body (aka That Waste of Paul Rudd That I Had to Look Up the Title For), the word "comedy" deserves to be within quotation marks when used as an adjective. It's not a terrible film, but it rarely rises above the hilarity level of Oh, How Cute. Even the cuteness wears off in the last third of the movie, leaving you with nothing but the feeling that you've seen this all before, perhaps in sitcoms, where it was much funnier.
You can predict the plot from the poster. Tom (Patrick Dempsey) and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) are best friends who pal around New York together like pale imitations of the leads in When Harry Met Sally, except these two characters apparently never watched the second half of that film. Tom is relationship-phobic -- he has a set of strict rules for his frequent one-night stands -- but when Hannah takes a long business trip to Scotland, he starts to realize that maybe Hannah is a bigger part of his life than someone to antique-shop and eat desserts with. Naturally, when Hannah returns from Scotland, it's with a perfectly sexy, perfectly perfect fiance in tow. And in a move that is meant to be the incitement for high humor, she asks the newly lovelorn and crushed Tom to be her -- you won't believe this -- maid of honor. Have you fallen out of your chair yet, and are you rolling on the floor in hysterics?
That's the point where what was shaping up as an extended remake of a Friends episode really lost me. The idea that it's utterly hilarious for a woman to ask a man to stand up with her at her wedding is at least 10 years out of date. I've had too many friends serve as the "best woman" or "man of honor" or whatever you want to call it, for me to find the situation absurd. The characters joke again and again about whether Tom will have to wear a dress, and it's meant to be absolutely sidesplitting that he's helping to shop for bridesmaid outfits, organize a bridal shower, and watch the world's goofiest video (narrated by Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View) about how to be a perfect maid of honor. Naturally, this also means that strangers all think he's gay. Other tired gags involve an overweight bridesmaid determined to wear a size 8 dress, a vengeful ex-girlfriend, a grandma's exposure to sex toys, and that fountain of eternal humor, the kilt. A few jokes hit their targets -- the opening Bill-and-Monica conceit was funnier than it should have been, and one shower scene had every woman in the audience hooting with laughter.
The cast does seem to try, although it's weird that Tom and Hannah went to Cornell together when Dempsey looks (and is) about 10 years older than Monaghan. Still, that's nothing new in the movie universe. But Tom isn't as charming as he should be, and he never quite convinced me that he should win Hannah's affection instead of Colin the perfect Scot, as played by Kevin McKidd. The leads have little personality beyond cuteness, and even their quirks (he invented the Starbucks "coffee collar," she restores paintings) aren't quirky enough to compensate. Kadeem Hardison stands out in a group of basketball-and-poker guys -- his character at least seems to radiate more energy and good humor than the rest of the cast. Sydney Pollack has a nice cameo as Tom's dad, reminding me of Harold Ramis as Seth Rogen's father in Knocked Up. Is this going to become a comedy-film trend?
Director Paul Weiland's filmography includes a number of episodes and direct-to-video movies featuring Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean character, humor that is far broader and more successful than that in Made of Honor. Writers Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan brought us such classic laff-riots as Surviving Christmas, Josie and the Pussycats (the movie), and A Very Brady Sequel.
Made of Honor ought to be one of those predictable but tolerably entertaining cookie-cutter comedies, the kind you can catch on TV late at night and find funny in a limited yet sufficient way. But like its main character, it is fatally enslaved to its rigid set of rules, the cliches of the generic romantic comedy, and permits no deviation. It has nothing to distinguish it from any other romantic comedy, and not enough laughs to justify even a 3 a.m. viewing when you're stuck in a hotel room with a bad case of insomnia.