Friday, May 2, 2008
Made of Honor opens with a Halloween party in 1998 where our main characters Tom (Patrick Dempsey) and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) are about to meet cute. Tom's dressed up as Bill Clinton and he's looking for his "Monica" at what looks like a big frat or sorority party. He enters a darkened bedroom and climbs into bed with the woman he thinks he has arranged a clandestine meeting. But it turns out to be Hannah, the woman's more morally upstanding roommate. Somehow this experience proves to be a bonding moment for Tom and Hannah. They insult each other and become immediate buddies - that means friendship but no sex.
Jump to ten years later. Tom has a made a fortune inventing the coffee collar (that thing that goes around a coffee cup to keep you from burning your fingers) and he's a shameless womanizer. He's also got a ton of rules about relationships, rules to essentially keep him from forming any relationships. So no "back to back" sexual encounters, no calling women for 24 hours after they give him their phone number... you get the idea. Meanwhile, Hannah is still single and judging from the looks she gives Tom, she wishes he would take an interest in her. So she puts up with him while he takes her for granted... Until she comes back from a trip to Scotland with news that she's marrying Mr. Right (Kevin McKidd). What would make the wedding perfect, she says, is if Tom would agree to be her maid of honor. Suddenly, Tom realizes that he has actually been in love with Hannah all along. Now the question is, is it too late to tell her?
Patrick Dempsey showing some leg in Scotland in Made of Honor (Sony Pictures)
Although the film seems very proud of its clever gender bending "twist," there's really nothing fresh about Made of Honor. It's a one-gag movie that wears out its gag well before the halfway mark. The film's writers, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, can boast such previous screenplays as A Very Brady Sequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas and Josie and the Pussycats . A catalog of films that combined might have generated a handful of laughs. For Made of Honor , they simply milk one gag: the womanizing Tom's discomfort at being given the traditionally female role of maid of honor. So he has to suffer through lunches with the bridesmaids, making gift baskets and hosting a bridal shower. But none of these things prove very funny but rather deliver on every predictable joke you can imagine. The recent Forgetting Sarah Marshall did a much better job of gender bending by presenting a male point of view in a romantic break up and turning a chick flick into a hilarious dick flick. But Made of Honor has no emotional insights, no fresh takes on familiar situations and no well-drawn characters to hold our interest. Plus the writers resort to such lame old cliches as jokes about fat chicks who think they can fit in size 8 dresses and catty girlfriends.
Now the writers of Made of Honor could have opted to make this a more character driven comedy and somewhere I sense that was lurking in the back of their minds. They take time for occasional scenes designed to reveal "honest" emotions. Unfortunately, these attempts are painfully thin. They could have sidestepped the sitcom humor and instead tried to develop a pair of characters that explore how friendship can turn to romance. But I think that was well out of their depth.
But while Kaplan and Elfont have nothing in their past work to reveal an inkling of talent, director Paul Weiland does. Not only has he directed some of the hilarious Mr. Bean shows but he has also delivered the enchanting coming of age comedy Sixty-Six (it played at this year's San Diego Jewish Film Festival). In Sixty-Six, Weiland used another rite of passage - a bar mitzvah - as the event around which everything else swirls. But in Sixty-Six , Weiland found not only humor but also a warm sense of character and family relationships. In Made of Honor he awkwardly moves from slapstick gags (Dempsey's pratfalls in the restaurant) to supposedly tender moments (Hannah's mom giving her a photo album, Tom's confession of love). But since Weiland displays a lack of commitment to either extreme, the film ends up falling flat.
The unbalanced romantic triangle: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan and Kevin McKidd (Sony Pictures)
The film's further hurt by the lackluster leads. Dempsey is a complete mystery to me. He's an attractive man - in a bland male model kind of way - but he lacks charisma. This was confirmed for me when I saw Enchanted . So his dull performance here as Tom makes it hard to believe that Hannah would pine for him all these years. Monaghan fares better. She's likable with a hint of smarts, but again she just doesn't light up the screen. McKidd, who's done more interesting work in Dog Soldiers and Trainspotting , has the thankless role as the throwaway plot device of being Mr. Right. He's so perfect (rich, handsome, a duke, etc) that you know he has to be all-wrong. The best romantic comedies are the ones where the love triangle is equally balanced and you're not sure who will end up with whom. Think back to Philadelphia Story and how appealing both Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant were to Katherine Hepburn. It is much more fun when the roles are more equal. I would even suggest that Superman Returns, although not a romantic comedy, was a much better film becasue the romantic triangle of Superman-Lois-Richard was such that both men looked to be attractive choices and worthy of the woman's love.
Made of Honor (rated PG-13 for sexual content and language) was probably designed as film competition to go up against the more male oriented Iron Man . Studio thinking was probably that Made of Honor would draw all the woman. But with Robert Downey, Jr. being so good and so hot in Iron Man , and with more and more woman becoming fans of comics, Made of Honor may be left standing alone at the altar.
Philadelphia Story, Sixty-Six, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Dog Soldiers