How bad can a movie be, with Goldilocks Hudson and Cinderella Hathaway? So excruciating that Hudson's sunshine can't warm it and Hathaway's rose redolence can't mask its stink. It's the rotten - and possibly, poisoned - apple of fairy-tale movies.
Other girls play soccer; young Liv and Emma play bride. Liv is the domineering one; Emma the perpetual pleaser. (In this movie with an unexamined undercurrent of same-sex love, Liv always gets the dress and Emma the tuxedo.) When they grow up Liv (Hudson) is a cutthroat litigator and Emma (Hathaway) a pliant schoolteacher, both awaiting proposals from live-in beaux essentially superfluous to the story.
Once the rings are proffered (conveniently, within 24 hours of each other), the pals see legendary wedding planner Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen, channeling Martha Stewart), who books their June weddings at the Plaza two weeks apart. An inputting error results in both being scheduled the same day.
When neither yields the date, battle ensues, a take-no-prisoners war where the domineering one meets her match and the pleaser decides to please herself. Thus this most contrived of conflicts is spun into a "growing experience" where the dominator is humiliated into humility and the doormat stands up for herself by wiping her feet on others.
Ordinarily actresses of great charm, Hathaway and Hudson submit to the embarrassments of the script (from Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael) with visibly tense jawlines and without visible joy.
I would have guessed it was impossible to rob Hudson of her effervescence, Hathaway of her grace. What were the screenwriters thinking? If director Gary Winick (Tadpole, Charlotte's Web) finds this funny, there is no evidence of it in his choppy rhythm or manhandling of actresses. Comedy requires speed and lightness of touch.
Though I appreciate the diversion of looking at attractive actresses in attractive clothes (glossily photographed by Frederick Elmes), I can't imagine anyone finding Bride Wars amusing.
I sincerely hope that this ill-advised affair won't undermine Anne Hathaway's Oscar prospects for her other wedding movie, Rachel Getting Married (as Eddie Murphy's Norbit, released when Academy members were filling in their ballot, soured his Oscar chances for Dreamgirls). Just as I sincerely hope that Hollywood will learn that there is more to the female moviegoer - and the characters she wants to see - than a consumer of fashion and planner of weddings.
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl