‘Bachelorette’: Put a ring on it

September 5, 2012

Comedies in which women talk dirty and act stupid and horny – is this such a hard to genre to get right?

It gives you renewed appreciation for “Bridesmaids,” which still stands as the contemporary template for the kind of comedy that always seems to come as a surprise when it’s done well.

But “Bachelorette,” though it has its funny moments, works too long and too hard for a message as obvious as this one delivers. Stop selling yourself short; learn to value yourself. What is this – a Tyler Perry movie?

But in the hands of writer-director Leslye Headland, who adapted from her own play, “Bachelorette” is an up-all-night adventure that starts at an abortive bachelorette party for bride-to-be Becky (Rebel Wilson), thrown by her BFFs Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher). Instead partying (or just partying), the bride’s pals go scrambling out into Manhattan after dark, in desperate need of a sewing miracle.

But they’re all also dealing with personal issues, beyond the fact that Becky – the chubby one whose nickname in high school was “Pig Face” – is the first of them to get married. And each sorts out her issue – sort of – in the course of a night that brings them into alignment with men who incite and excite them.

Headland’s characters dash from crisis to crisis, all in service to the film’s central problem: After Becky angrily cancels the bachelorette party mid-male-stripper (he happens to call her “Pig Face”) and stalks angrily out, her friends accidentally rip her bridal gown. So it’s up to Regan (the Type-A pal with a fearful assistant) to sort things out, in the same way she put the whole wedding together, in her role as maid of honor.

If Regan is the control freak, Katie and Gena are her opposites. Katie is the one with the hilarious substance-abuse problem (and, to her credit, Fisher manages to make it both funny and poignant), while Gena is the slutty one. Gena has a grudge against one of the other guests, Clyde (Adam Scott), who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Naturally, they wind up spending the night chasing around the city together, beginning in a strip club (where the strippers all keep their tops on, despite the film’s R rating). Regan and Katie also hook up – with James Marsden (as a smarmy groomsman) and Kyle Bornheimer (as Katie’s high-school classmate whom she barely remembers), respectively.

Some of the dialogue is witty; some of the plotting is clever. Most of it, however, feels very written, without being written funny enough for that not to matter. While these women have a believably foul-mouthed friendship, there’s not enough depth (as opposed to a familiar exoskeleton) to these characters for them to resonate beyond the punchlines.

Fisher and Caplan have the funniest roles and make the most of them, though Scott and Marsden have admirable timing, as does Bornheimer, in a completely different vein.

I know people who hated “Bridesmaids” who loved “Bachelorette.” Probably the opposite will be true as well. While it amuses, it does so intermittently – and never takes it much farther than that.

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