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Review: `Made of Honor' made of romantic comedy cliches

Friday, May 2, 2008

AP Movie Critic

The whole point of a romantic comedy is the comfort of the ritual -- the familiarity of it all, as if you're wrapping yourself in a warm, snugly blanket of knowledge that the two attractive, charming leads will surely end up with each other in the end. The outcome is never in doubt, despite the various contrived obstacles that pop up along the way.

This is especially true of "Made of Honor," because it's pretty much a remake of a movie you've already seen: 1997's "My Best Friend's Wedding," starring Julia Roberts and rom-com regular Dermot Mulroney. The only difference is a reversal in gender roles -- so daring!

This time, Patrick Dempsey plays the one who realizes he's in love with his best friend (Michelle Monaghan), and when she announces she's getting married, he vows to undermine the wedding from the inside. Because, you see, she's asked him to be her "maid of honor." The title, of course, is a pun.

Dempsey and Monaghan have a likable screen presence individually and together, which makes the movie from British director Paul Weiland ("City Slickers II -- The Legend of Curly's Gold," enough said) vaguely tolerable -- for half a minute. And as Tom, a moneyed Manhattan womanizer, Dempsey does take off his shirt a lot, which is always a plus. They don't call him McDreamy for nothin'.

But then the pratfalls and the plotting become painfully cliched, and all you can do is check your watch and wait for the inevitable mad dash to break up the wedding and blurt out some long-overdue I-love-yous. In this case, the dash is actually a gallop, on horseback, across the Scottish countryside.

Oops! Sorry, don't want to give anything away.

Tom is in love, though, for the first time in his life, even though the perfect woman has been right in front of him all along. (It took three screenwriters, Adam Sztykiel and the team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, to come up with that premise.) Monaghan's Hannah is bright and funny and girl-next-door lovely, and since college, each has been the only person to be totally honest with the other.

It seems neither of them has been honest with themselves, though, because they obviously share an attraction. That discovery smacks Tom in the face when Hannah, an art restorer, goes to Scotland for six weeks on a project. In her absence, there's no one to walk around Central Park and share dessert with on Sunday afternoons, and the bimbos he invites along on these adventures are paltry substitutes.

He promises to profess his love for Hannah upon her return, to the dismay of his fiercely unattached guy friends. But when they meet for dinner, she shows up with strapping Scotsman Colin (Kevin McKidd), her fiance. Of course, this dude is perfect: He's a duke! His family owns a Scotch distillery! He can sing! And worst of all, he's freakishly well-endowed.

You could pretty much write the script yourself from here. Tom tries everything in his power to make Colin look inferior, and Colin repeatedly rises to the occasion. Lots of broad physical humor ensues, requiring Tom to fall down a lot and wear a micro-mini of a kilt. Several of the gags fall flat and just lie there, including the awkward sex-toy demonstration at Hannah's bridal shower.

Nothing is ever funny or cute or clever -- or romantic, the supposed point. It all feels recycled and trite. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey could have starred in this. The pieces are interchangeable but the result is the same.

Sydney Pollack classes things up in a few scenes as Tom's oft-married father, but his presence amid such lazy schlock is baffling. As a director, Pollack has made his name with complicated, thought-provoking movies such as "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and "Three Days of the Condor" -- movies that are the exact opposite of this.

"Made of Honor," a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 101 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.


Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G -- General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG -- Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 -- Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R -- Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 -- No one under 17 admitted.


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