Anyone who's seen Kristin Wiig's rubber-faced grotesques and neurotic Nellies on Saturday Night Live can attest to her ability to make absurdist sketch ideas (say, a Lawrence Welk Show sister act with a mutant member) somehow work like gangbusters. Her strengths, however, don't necessarily suggest she'd be the perfect person to lead an all-female Apatovian ensemble comedy. A performer this deadly with weird tangents and acidic zingers is fated to have a career stealing movies instead of starring in them. (Always a bridesmaid...)
It's Judd Apatow himself, in fact, who's producing her Rogen-Segel--style upgrade from second banana, but Wiig does something more satisfying with this tale of one-upwomanship than simply go the full Meg Ryan. Triple-dutying as cowriter and coproducer, she forces stock material about a loser maid of honor competing with a rich trophy wife (Byrne) for wedding MVP to fit her comic sensibilities about XX-chromosome insecurity and anxiety, rather than the other way around. The result is less an estrogenized raunchfest (a broadmance?) than a staunch reclamation of the chick flick, especially in her too-brief bits with BFF-bride Maya Rudolph. For every gross-out gag like a barfing-and-BMs marathon, there are scenes of female desperation, public downward spiraling and romantic awkwardness that Wiig gives an uncomfortably realistic edge even as she's cracking you up.
Whenever Bridesmaids rises up to her level of cringe comedy, you feel a stake being driven through Sex and the City notions of how women hang out. Given Paul Feig's arrhythmic, shapeless direction, it's a miracle these moments blossom at all. Must every funny sequence end abruptly with a generic cut to a city skyline scored to a pop song? Can a nearly perfect set piece of drunken humiliation aboard a plane still manage to drag on way too long? (No, and yes.) Wiig comes out a winner, but nothing is worse than watching a perfect marriage of performer and material get so perversely undermined.
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