It’s been twenty years since Runaway Bride premiered in movie theaters, reuniting Richard Gere and Julia Roberts for the first time since their 1990 megahit Pretty Woman. While not the desired sequel to Pretty Woman that fans had been asking for, Runaway Bride still went on to rake in over $300 million worldwide at the box office, becoming both Roberts and Gere’s third most successful movie of their careers.
Ike Graham (Gere), a columnist known for his “bitter diatribes about women”, writes a piece on a small-town woman, Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), who has left several men at the altar, thus being labeled ‘the runaway bride’. His story is littered with factual inaccuracies which prompts a visceral response from Maggie in a letter to the editor. Due to the lack of due diligence on Ike’s part before writing the column, he is fired. In an effort to restore his reputation, he travels to Hale, Maryland to write a more in-depth piece on Maggie as she attempts her fourth walk down the aisle.
This movie is littered with rom-com tropes, but honestly, that’s what makes it so fun. The big city journalist trying to find a story in a small, close-knit town while unwittingly being drawn to the woman who is the subject of his article, and ire. And of course, the beautiful, mysterious girl next door who doesn’t seem to know who she really is, as her entire life seemed to revolve around changing her personality for whichever man she was currently involved with. Ike and Maggie endure a battle of wits before coming together to grow, and of course, fall in love.
While this movie does have its eye-roll inducing moments, such as Ike telling Maggie that she doesn’t want men telling her what she really wants while telling her what she really wants, I feel it’s perhaps slightly less problematic than Pretty Woman was. In any case, Gere and Roberts still have the chemistry that made Pretty Woman such a success, even if I found Gere’s character Ike to be a bit on the bland side for a leading man. However, Julia Roberts more than makes up for that with Maggie. She takes a character that could have been wholly unlikeable and makes her feel relatable and real. Where Maggie is beautiful and spirited, she is also insecure and fairly oblivious to the hurt she inadvertently causes some of her loved ones with her flirtatious, outgoing behavior.
Even twenty years later, Runaway Bride remains pure fluff. Admittedly, it goes off the rails in the third quarter of the movie, but is still entertaining and humorous enough that you’re willing to ignore the little voice in the back of your head that says none of this has any basis in reality.
Extremely predictable, but also romantic and fun, and it’s worth a watch just for the video montage of Maggie leaving her first three fiances at the altar. Ideally, she would have realized marriage is not really a prize and not a goal that she needed to strive for, but rom-coms being rom-coms, Maggie and Ike needed to end up together so she could overcome her “fear” of walking down the aisle to the perfect – and I use that word lightly – man.
Oh, and Joan Cusack is in this, which is always a bonus.