Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. In 27 Dresses, that’s essentially the life of altruistic Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl), a romantic who has found herself a bridesmaid in 27 different weddings while harboring an unrequited crush on her boss, George (Edward Burns).
At times it comes across as if Jane is more the wedding planner than a bridesmaid as so many people depend on her to keep their special day running smoothly. See, Jane has a problem with telling people “no”. Not only to her friends but to George and her younger sister, Tess (Malin Akerman), who has recently returned home Europe and quickly captures George’s heart.
Jane bites her tongue throughout the whirlwind romance, watching as Tess lies and manipulates George into believing she is his dream girl. When George proposes to Tess, it seems like Jane will soon be adding a 28th bridesmaid dress to her overstuffed closet. See, she’s too sentimental to toss the hideous creations away, or “shorten it and wear again” as every bride has told her to do.
She’s not thrilled about essentially becoming Tess’s wedding planner, and things are made worse when she is thrown into close proximity with Kevin Doyle (James Marsden), a handsome but cynical reporter for the local newspaper who writes the Commitments section. He’s already intrigued by Jane, having watched her race between two weddings on Saturday night, and he’s assigned to cover Tess and George’s upcoming nuptials. He weaves true tales of everlasting love, but he doesn’t believe in any of it. Kevin is of the mind that people don’t get married for the marriage, they get married for the wedding, and this is where he and Jane butt heads.
But when Kevin finds Jane’s yearly planner stuffed with wedding plans for all of her friends, he realizes that there might be a story there, one that could potentially get him a promotion. So Kevin uses the material he gains from Tess and George’s article to create a piece on Jane’s situation. Think Runaway Bride, but instead, it’s Perpetual Bridesmaid.
Every step of 27 Dresses is a predictable one, but I found I didn’t mind it as I do so many other romantic comedies. We get a drunken bar sing-a-long to Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, and a fantastic montage of Jane trying on all of her hideous dresses for Kevin. Having been a bridesmaid in a few weddings myself, I’m thankful never to have had to wear even one monstrosity. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the piles of taffeta and silk flying about in this movie. To be honest, I kind of regret not having a theme-wedding myself and shoving my friends into hoop skirts with ruffles and bonnets.
That being said, Katherine Heigl is what made the movie work for me. She is engaging as Jane, a character who could have so easily been a downtrodden doormat, but Heigl gives Jane a witty edge that is sorely needed when everyone around her takes advantage of her good nature. James Marsden is an appealing leading man, the hunky cynic to Heigl’s sentimental Jane.
They weren’t overflowing in the chemistry department, but there was just enough spark there to keep me invested and I enjoyed their banter. The problem is, I don’t think there was enough of it. 27 Dresses really shines when Jane and Kevin are together, but the movie focuses far too much on Jane, Tess, and George, who unfortunately fits the role of the handsome but dull secondary love interest far too perfectly. That particular love triangle brings the movie down because other than having plenty of money and being played by Edward Burns, I couldn’t figure out what Jane saw in George at all.
Judy Greer shows up intermittently as Jane’s friend Casey and I would have loved to have seen more of her throughout the film. Greer has a tendency to play the quirky friend in these romantic comedies, and personally, I find she elevates even the most boring of them. Sadly, she’s underused here except when she needs to step in and give Jane advice.
I completely understand the annoyance with wedding-themed romantic comedies, where the heroines are made out to be ravenous for love and marriage and nothing more. Some could even argue that 27 Dresses fits that mold, but at the same time, I think the movie proves that women are allowed to be romantics, they’re allowed to want love, and they’re capable of enjoying weddings without turning into shrieking, toxic harpies if one thing doesn’t go their way (I’m looking at you, Bride Wars).
I certainly don’t think 27 Dresses is as bad as so many critics tend to think. It lacks originality, sure, but it’s still a frothy, lively rom-com that is both funny and sweet thanks to Heigl. There’s also rumblings of a potential sequel, which to be honest, I would probably really enjoy.
27 Dresses is not a great movie, but it’s certainly the right kind of movie to watch on a lazy Sunday where you don’t want to have to invest too much brain power into anything.