The battling brides at the heart of this matrimonial dramedy aren't grown-up mean girls, but the kind of codependent best friends whose personality ping-pong would drive a long-running sitcom. Control-freak corporate attorney Liv Lerner (Kate Hudson) and pushover elementary school teacher Emma Allen (Anne Hathaway) have little in common, outside of an obsession with all things bridal and an unwavering devotion to each other. The Bride Wars commence when these all important belief systems suddenly come into conflict with each other.
These young Manhattanites are, deep down, the awestruck Jersey girls whose moms brought them to tea at the Plaza Hotel, where they witnessed a wedding so magical, it imprinted the matrimonial myth on their psyches. For Liv and Emma, exchanging vows at the Plaza in June is the grail. Their ridiculously heightened expectations could make for some biting bridezilla comedy, and there are some cynical seeds planted in the screenplay by Greg DePaul, who got the idea from his own double wedding, where the bickering brides were sisters.
DePaul collaborated with the comedy team of Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, who portray none-too-enthused friends of the newly engaged, injecting little doses of snark into this lovefest. But once Liv and Emma fall under the tutelage of Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen), a wedding planner worshipped by her clientele, no one ever questions or challenges the rigid dictates of the industry. Everyone is in thrall to this benign dictator, who narrates the film as a fairy tale about the lifelong bonds that define us.
All this would be insufferable if it weren't for the light touch of director Gary Winick (13 Going on 30, Tadpole), who understands that it's about more than an overwrought, expensive ceremony. The comedic hook of Bride Wars is the way Liv and Emma attempt to sabotage each other's nuptials after they're accidentally booked at the Plaza on the same day. Their lifelong united front crumbles fast, and Winick views this development not as a tragedy but an opportunity, as each woman begins to unconsciously adopt the traits of the other.
The grooms of Bride Wars (Steve Howey and Chris Pratt) are low-wattage support players, but produce enough sparks to fire up their distracted fiancees. What sets this breezy chick flick apart from the recent glut of walking down the aisle tales is Winick's portrayal of a wedding as a journey, not a destination.
Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.