There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about what kind of comedy Bridesmaids is — who it’s for, what it’s trying to do. Most of the buzz I’ve heard revolves around the comedy non-revelation that, holy shit, girls can be funny too, and look at these funny girls who are already millionaires for being funny be so funny even though girls are never funny. It’s ridiculous. And although I understand why comparisons will be drawn, over and over, to the “guy versions” of Bridesmaids, I really wish they didn’t have to be. Because Bridesmaids is, objectively, a fucking terrific comedy, independent of the gender discussions that people who watch and truly care about comedy know are complete bullshit. I wish there were more unqualified good reviews of this movie, reviews that talk about how many of the jokes are brilliant, how many characters and relationships are believable and how many performances are spot-on, and just leave it at that. But instead those compliments are buried under a headline of “Against All Odds” and it undermines a lot of true praise for the film.
Gripes with its reception aside, there is a ton to love about Bridesmaids, and in many ways it feels like a logical evolution of the, for lack of a better phrase, Apatow genre. Its characters and relationships are interesting without being generalized, the improvisation is on-game and generally moves the scenes forward, and the jokes, both scripted and improvised, are by and large amazing.
The cast is great, as if I needed to mention it. I’m not the biggest fan of the way SNL has pigeonholed Kristen Wiig, and many of her film roles have been pretty broad, so while I was looking forward to seeing her spread her wings a bit in a leading role, I’ll admit I didn’t have super high hopes. But she’s great as Annie, and any limitations she might have in dramatic abilities she covers nicely by writing herself a character who expresses herself best in bursts of silliness rather than tears and sentimentality. And it rings true, even in the more desperate or heartfelt moments, where her character has just enough self-awareness to calm down for a second and look at what she’s doing. It will remain to be seen if she can carry a movie with any other kind of character, but here, it works.
The supporting cast is alternately fantastic and underused. Melissa McCarthy is one standout, who fills the Zach Galifianakis role for much of the film and has a couple incredible bits. Chris O’Dowd is great as well as the unflinchingly sweet love interest; I think it’s pretty safe to say this role will be very good for his American career. Jon Hamm is almost too good at being a total asshole — amid all the gross-out humor and profanity, his scenes were the only ones that really made my skin crawl.
Not all the cast is used to their full potential, though — Ellie Kemper and Wendy McLendon-Covey are well-suited for roles that end up fading to the background because of length and structure concerns, which is a shame knowing what an unbelievable comedian and improvisor Ellie Kemper is. Rose Byrne is given a great role up top, which, for similar reasons, never quite gets the resolution I think it needs.
But those omissions are in service, for better or worse, of two genuinely fantastic relationships: Wiig and Rudolph, and Wiig and O’Dowd (Wiig and Wiig, too, I guess). It’s a film from Annie’s perspective, and although we see less outside those two relationships than I think a two-hour film might usually require, those two relationships carry the film. And the rest, even when it’s a little underdeveloped, is amiable — and hilarious — enough that it hardly makes a difference.
Like any comedy worth praising, Bridesmaids succeeds on its own merits. Of course it’s a film that has something to prove, and it knows it (casting Tim Heidecker as the groom then giving him no jokes and one line — “I do” — is obviously making some kind of statement), but it doesn’t have to. Don’t go see Bridesmaids because it’s better than expected, go see it because it’s great.
Alden Ford is an actor, writer and comedian living in Brooklyn. He performs regularly in NYC with his sketch/improv group Sidecar.