27 DRESSES begins as a harmless little romp. It coasts along with a comfortable sort of premise, which lacks originality, but does have the fumbling effervescence of Katherine Heigl as its star. What starts out unremarkably quickly loses its way with writing that falters, dialogue that babbles, and a point of view that vacillates about whether Ms Heigl’s character, Jane the perpetual bridesmaid, does or doesn’t like what she claims at the outset to be her calling: getting the bride through her big day.
The titular apparel constitutes the contents of her cramped closet in her cramped New York apartment, each the souvenir of the wedding in which she has been the maid of honor and forced to wear the fashion disasters that bridesmaid’s dresses traditionally are. Nurturing the bride, handling the details, and seeing to it that everything comes off with only one hitch, the one at the altar, is something that she is very, very good at. So good, in fact, that at the beginning of the film, she is maid-of-honoring at two weddings on the same night without missing a beat. And, apparently, almost no one missing her for the swaths of time it takes for her dash back and forth across town, changing clothes in a waiting taxi, and whooping it up at the other wedding. It’s a thin joke, but Heigl works it for all it’s worth, even the part where she’s knocked unconscious by someone leaping for the bridal bouquet at one of the weddings, and is nurtured herself by the handsome guest, Kevin (James Marsden), who has been watching her antics, and her thong, all evening. Sure they meet cute, in classic cinema style, but all the attempts at the sort of snappy repartee from said classic cinema fall short of the mark. Very short. The point of the conversation, say love/hate at first sight, is established from the get-go, with the conversants blathering on and on and on with increasingly tiresome dialogue that goes nowhere but downhill and fast with a remarkable lack of anything remotely resembling pithy, much less witty.
The flimsiest of plot devices keep the story lurching along. Jane is in love with her eco-friendly, philanthropist hunk of a boss (Edward Burns), who barely notices that a Jane is female, but who does fall precipitously and at first sight for Jane’s glitzy and superficial sister, Tess (Malin Akerman), who wears her skirts barely long enough to preserve the film’s PG-13 rating. Just who did send those flowers to Jane at work? What will become of the poor girl when she leaves her bulging Filofax in the cab she shared with Kevin and from which she stormed in high dudgeon? And the most important question of all, when to we get to the inevitable montage of all those dresses stuffed into Jane’s closet? The answer to that last one is about two-thirds of the way in, as Jane and Kevin inexplicably start having a good time while forced to spend time together with another of the plot’s flimsy premises that doesn’t bear going into here. She models them for him to a forgettable pop song as flashbacks to the weddings themselves fill the screen. In truth, the horseback nuptials were a surprise, but the underwater ceremony, not so much. The other inevitable moment, the drinking/confession/revelation/singing-off-key follows rather quickly and is as dismally predictable as it sounds. As is what happens right afterwards, and what happens the next morning.
The supporting cast isn’t much help. Akerman, in the role of the Barbie™ doll, is as plastic as the toy itself, expressing herself with the distracting habit of popping her chin in and out, right and left, hither and yon, with such force that the possibility of TMJ or some sort of whiplash seems distinct. Burns is affable in a part that calls for little except looking good and having that wonderfully gravelly voice. Marsden, with exuberantly wavy hair and a grin that can best be described as maniacal, comes across as a creepy sort of elf. Jane Greer, as the de rigeur cynical best friend, is the best of the bunch as she shreds the stars from everyone’s eyes and delivers the only line in the film worth listening to: “What good is it to be appreciated if everyone’s not naked?” Maybe you had to be there.
27 DRESSES takes an easy target and misses. Uninspired, trivial, and relentlessly chipper anyway, it’s the cinematic equivalent of being forced to wear one of the monstrosities in Jane’s closet. Or, worse, having to look at one for 107 minutes.