Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan in Mediocre ‘Bachelorette’

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Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – “Bachelorette,” now playing On Demand (and doing quite well on that format) and opening in theaters tomorrow, is a modestly successful comedy with some very talented stars stuck with an incredibly inconsistent script. The performers do their best and there are some scenes that work but the overall piece is remarkably forgettable, reminding viewers of “Bridesmaids” and “The Hangover” while failing to match either in terms of laughs.

The obvious comparison is going to be Kristen Wiig’s smash hit “Bridesmaids” but this raunchy comedy actually plays more like a female version of “The Hangover” in the way it presents a quartet of semi-friends, hides one of them for most of the action, and lets the other three run wild in a world of profanity, cheap sex, strippers, and copious drugs. The biggest problem with “Bachelorette” is that it’s just not that funny and attempts at dramatic honesty fall even flatter. The movie is remarkably tonally messy as it veers from dark veins of humor to sentimentality to honest drama to physical comedy to straight-up raunch. It feels haphazard and unrefined like so many awful comedies but an extremely talented cast saves it from total disaster.

Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

When Becky (Rebel Wilson) tells old high school friend Regan (Kirsten Dunst) that she’s getting married, the bitter Regan can’t hide her disdain. How dare the girl once known as “Pigface” get married before the popular Regan? She calls other friends Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher) to join her in her bitchy pity party. Of course, Becky invites Regan, Gena, and Katie to the wedding and we flash forward to the 24 hours of disaster before the big day.

The night before Becky’s nuptials, her three “friends” attend a party in her honor and embarrass her to the point that she basically un-invites them from the wedding. Drowning their sorrows in cocaine, the three girls decide to play around with Becky’s dress. It rips and the rest of the movie consists of them trying to get it fixed, hooking up with a trio of guys, and dealing with their many, many personality issues.

Each character gets a subplot and some background drama. Gena has to come to terms with her ex-boyfriend Clyde (Adam Scott). Regan flirts with the cocky Trevor (James Marsden). Katie flirts with the sweet Joe (Kyle Bornheimer). And everyone behaves very badly. It’s the kind of film where grown women call each other the c-word casually and backstab in a heartbeat to get ahead in life or love. They’re pretty horrendously awful people. Regan is the kind of woman who’s described as a good friend without irony because she doesn’t let someone O.D. in a bathroom. That’s the threshold in this world.

Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

I have no problem with dark comedy but writer/director Leslye Headland (who adapted her own play) too often wants to play emotional cards as well. The cast is up to the challenge but these characters are so often loathsome that I couldn’t root for their emotional catharsis to matter. It’s not that they feel too “mean” but they don’t feel real and so the piece never connects on a character level. I really like the cast – Caplan is underrated in everything she does and Dunst should have been Oscar-nominated last year – but the movie veers too wildly from broad comedy to heartstring-pulling to connect. And too much of the dialogue and set-pieces just don’t work as drama or comedy – there’s too much writer’s affect (a wedding speech near the end is particularly groan-inducing in the “that would never happen” way).

It’s interesting that “Bachelorette” has become a pretty big success on the On Demand circuit because it’s the kind of film that a film critic might have said “Wait for DVD” about in a theatrical review. You don’t have to wait to watch “Bachelorette” at home but maybe you should.

“Bachelorette” stars Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Kyle Bornheimer, James Marsden, Adam Scott, and Ann Dowd. It was written and directed by Leslye Headland. It is rated R and is now available On Demand before opening in theaters on September, 7, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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