Made of HonorReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 05/02/08 14:54:21
So I get to the theater for the midnight premiere screening of the new romantic comedy “Made of Honor”--a necessity since the local publicist inexplicably (or perhaps explicably, now that I think about it) decided to hold its only mass press screening at the exact same time as a little thing called “Iron Man”--and when I make my way to the head of the line, I confidently ask for one ticket to “Made of Honor.” In response, the ticket seller, either not hearing or not believing what he heard, began punching up a ducat for “Iron Man” instead. When I insisted that no, I really did want a ticket for “Made of Honor,” I got the weirdest looks from the people in the booth until I assured them that I had already seen “Iron Man” a few days earlier. After that was settled, I proceeded to the ticket taker who handed me my stub and directed me to auditorium 15, which turned out to be one of the many screens in the place that were showing, you guessed it, “Iron Man.” As I finally made my way to the correct auditorium, I just assumed that these incidents were innocent mistakes brought on by the fact that they had clearly been packing them in for “Iron Man” that evening (even at midnight on Thursday, the parking lot was as crowded as it usually is on a typical Saturday night) and because I admittedly don’t fit the profile of the kind of person who would be going to see something along the lines of “Made of Honor”--if there are any guys going to see it, they would presumably be there with a significant other and telling them something along the lines of “It’s okay, honey. . .I didn’t really want to see “Iron Man” anyway.” However, as “Made of Honor” began unfolding, it began to dawn on me that perhaps the theater staff was actually trying to help me by steering me towards a pretty good action film and away from a truly abysmal entry in the annals of the chick movie genre--a work so profoundly derivative of its predecessors that the single funniest joke in the entire thing comes right at the very beginning when the opening credits reveal that one of the entities involved with its production is named “Original Films.”The film stars Patrick Dempsey as Tom, a wacky Lothario with all sorts of personal rules regarding relationships that he has devised to keep himself at an emotional distance from all his conquests and which he will find himself breaking as the film progresses--a list so rigid and self-serving that he makes the domineering husband in “Sleeping With the Enemy“ seem laid-back by comparison. (If you can recall any romantic comedy that included this particularly hackneyed device and turned out to be a decent movie anyway, please forward the title to me as soon as possible--bear in mind, however, that I am not counting “Fight Club” as a romantic comedy.) In a flashback to a college Halloween party in 1998, we see him meeting cute with Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), a peachy kind of girl whose eyes were hazel and whose nose was slightly curved. (I guess I should warn you at this point that I do intend on slipping in as many references to the Rolling Stones’ classic “Memory Motel” as possible into this review in order to alleviate my boredom.) Even though their first meeting, involving drunken behavior, mistaken identity and several Clinton-Lewinsky jokes, is the kind of situation that tends to lead to sexual assault charges, it proves to be the beginning of a beautiful platonic friendship that consists of Tom being an overbearing and self-satisfied jerk--the kind who orders everyone else’s food for them without asking--and Hannah lapping it all up in the apparent absence of any other friends or romantic partners to speak of for herself.
Anyway, Hannah goes off to Scotland for six weeks and during that time by himself, it begins to dawn on Tom that he has feelings for Hannah after all(actually, it begins to dawn on him that his string of other girlfriends won’t play along with his annoying personal quirks and rules to the degree that Hannah does) and decides that when she returns, he will confess all to her. When they reunite, it turns out that she’s got a mind of her own and she uses it well, well enough to find herself a fiancée in Colin (Kevin McKidd), a handsome bloke who is perfectly charming, a bona-fide duke and the heir to Scotland’s largest whiskey producer and his penis is apparently enormous. You know how most of the romantic rivals in films of this type are so seemingly perfect that they feel like they belong in those old Dewar’s Profiles ads? This may be the first instance when the guy in question could be Dewar himself. This discovery causes Tom to suddenly lose all motor control just in time for him to crash into the nearest waiter but instead of gently shutting Tom out of her life for good after such a mortifying display by informing him that he is just a memory of love that used to mean so much to her, she asks him to be her maid of honor at the wedding that will be taking place in two weeks. (Cue a second collision with the same waiter, a task made more difficult considering that Tom is sitting down when he hears the news and actually has to get up out of his seat in order to cause his second mess.)
Tom agrees (cue the endless string of jokes where he is introduced to people as the maid of honor and everyone assumes that he is gay) but he has ulterior motives--he plans on using his inside position to sabotage the wedding by sowing seeds of doubt in Hannah’s mind about her hasty nuptials while his buddies attempt to dig up any kind of dirt on him. When it turns out that Colin is as squeaky-clean as advertised, Tom shifts gears and attempts to become the perfect maid of honor in order to show Hannah that he has become mature and responsible in the hopes that this will somehow win her heart. This doesn’t quite work either and when they all arrive in Scotland for the big day, the truth finally comes out via an indiscreet kiss during a Scottish bachelorette party that seems more like one of the weirdo rituals in the remake of “The Wicker Man.” It all goes bad, of course, and Hannah goes off to her wedding while Tom, whose nerves are shot already and whose eyes are all a glaze, begins heading home until a feeling that is gnawing at his bones overtakes him at the last minute. I wouldn’t dream of revealing what happens next except to say that if someone offers to bet you that the film doesn’t somehow climax with Tom crashing into the ceremony at the exact moment that the priest mentions the thing about how anyone with any objections should speak now or forever hold their peace, take that action without hesitation.
As you may have guessed by this point, “Made of Honor” is nothing more than a point-by-point knock-off of the Julia Roberts hit “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with the only differences being the gender switching among the central characters and a far more conventional ending this time around. Now I am not about to sit here and sing the praises of “My Best Friend’s Wedding”--I didn’t think it was that great when I first saw it back in 1997 and I don’t think that I have given it a second thought since then--but from what I do recall, it did have a couple of interesting things going for it. For one thing, it resisted the urge to turn the Cameron Diaz character, the one standing in between Julia Roberts and her happy ending, into one of these stock characters who starts off as a perfect person and then turns into a monster by the end. For another, it recognized that the Julia Roberts character was being incredibly selfish and self-centered and it didn’t let her off the hook just because she was the presumed heroine of the piece--at one point, she did something so unforgivably mean to poor Cameron Diaz that the loyalties of the audience wound up shifting in such a way that we began rooting for her to succeed over the presumptive star of the piece.
By comparison, “Made of Honor” plays as though it were written by people who kind of remembered the plot of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” but forgot those key details. Instead, we are treated to the experience of watching a fumbling romantic triangle in which two of the three participants are so unlikable that we find ourselves hoping that they will wind up together so as to spare the third from the cruelty of having to spend any more time around them. Tom is a smug, whiny and self-absorbed jerk throughout and while this may dovetail with the character that Julia Roberts played, the difference is that here, the filmmakers seem to be working under the delusion that this behavior is somehow “charming” and “romantic” instead of “creepy” and “deeply unpleasant.” As for Hannah, she isn’t exactly a prize either. As I pointed out earlier, she doesn’t seem to have any sort of life outside of her relationship with Tom, she seems incredibly eager to submit to the desires of any man that enters her orbit (which makes you wonder who exactly is going to be using the riding crop that she models as part of her wedding night ensemble) and she is apparently so clueless that she managed to somehow spend six weeks in Scotland canoodling with its favorite sun without ever once experiencing or even hearing about this thing called haggis, unless Colin somehow slipped his haggis into her cupcake while she wasn’t looking. (You know, I am no linguist but I think that I may have just invented a euphemism.)
As it turns out, basing a story around two deeply unpleasant characters selfishly searching for their own personal happiness regardless of how many people they step on along the way to the point where they only begin to publicly humiliate themselves--in this regards, “Made of Honor” could be considered the Hillary Clinton of contemporary chick flicks (and that noise you just heard, by the way, was my mother clicking off of this review in a huff--a minute-and-a-huff, depending on her server speed)--turns out to be only one of the film’s sins. This is one of those films where most right-thinking audiences will find themselves sitting stone-faced during the allegedly comedic elements while tittering helplessly during the allegedly moving and dramatic moments. The screenplay is a piece of hackwork that always goes for the easy and predictable joke instead of trying to find a new twist on the material. Take the moment where Tom believes that he has hired a tarot card reader for the bridal shower but has actually called in a sex-aid saleswoman with a suitcase of samples to demonstrate for the appalled crowd. A slightly more ambitious screenplay might have figured out a way to demonstrate how a phone call could transpire in which the person doing the calling is under the impression that he is hiring a tarot card reader while actually winding up with a kinky Amway dealer. Instead, the film ignores that bit of confusion altogether and instead treats us to a endless series of shots in which Hannah’s grandmother walks around unknowingly wearing something fairly unspeakable around her neck. The film also tries to spark interest by bringing in a whole bunch of supporting characters but then fails to give them anything to do. It trucks in three bridesmaids for alleged comic relief but then does nothing with them after establishing each one’s single character trait--one (Busy Philips) is a bitch, one (Emily Nelson) is an overweight woman who is hilariously starving herself in order to fit into her dress (are we supposed to be laughing as she reels around in a near-faint?) and the third (Whitney Cummings) appears to exist only to bring a sense of symmetry to the pictorial compositions. Most irritating of all, it has no idea of what to do with the Colin character once it has established him as the dreamiest dish ever to emerge from the moors of Scotland. Instead of trying to find a way of dealing with him in the end that allows him to continue to be sympathetic, thereby making Hannah’s possible decision to dump him at the altar a trickier move, the screenplay takes the easy way out by making him slowly transform into a monster in her eyes. Even in that regard, the film muffs it because the worst sins that they can come up with for him turn out to be that he hunts his own food (and his mother proudly shows Hannah a video of the kill at the dinner table), he doesn’t want to share desserts and he likes to play the bagpipes. Granted, I don’t claim to know much about the female mind but my guess is that if those were the worst sins of a man who is of royal stock (granted, it is Scottish royal stock, but still. . .), wildly rich, kind and attentive and looks like Daniel Craig’s younger and more attractive brother, most women (and not a few men as well) would be perfectly willing to overlook them, especially when the sole competition for their favors is the dork from “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Of course, flaws such of these in a romantic comedy can be overlooked (or at least more easily put aside) as long as the chemistry between the two stars is up and running but even that aspect comes up short here. Patrick Dempsey is a drippy, draggy bore throughout--at times, he feels like a place holder who is marking time until the arrival of the real romantic hero--and Michelle Monaghan never gets a chance to demonstrate the blend of quirky good humor and girl-next-door sexiness that she brought to the wonderful cult item “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Separately, each one fails to capture anyone’s attention and together, they strike zero sparks--we never buy them for a second as either longtime friends or as potential lovers. As the Scottish hunk, Kevin McKidd is stuck playing the part of the boring third wheel, a tricky role this time around since virtually every other character is as boring as he is. Of the supporting players, the only one who makes any sort of impact is Sydney Pollack, who turns up in a couple of scenes as Tom’s often-married father who is crazy enough in love to take a sixth bride (Kelly Carlson) when we meet him but wise enough to have “Golddigger” playing during the reception. His brief contributions are smoothly professional but what I liked best about his presence was the fact that whenever he appeared on-screen, I was able to recall that he was in the infinitely better “Michael Clayton” and could daydream that maybe someone would get around to blowing up McJerky’s car, preferably while he was still in it.Yeah, I know that I am a guy and as such, I am supposed to be biologically biased against movies like “Made of Honor.” That said, I have plenty of intelligent and quick-witted women friends and I am willing to bet even money that if they sat through this film, they would be outraged that this pandering piece of garbage, a monstrosity that almost makes “27 Dresses” seem palatable by comparison, was supposed to represent what the female gender wanted from their big-screen entertainment. My guess is that a lot of women out there will feel the same way and once the word of this film’s cruddiness gets around, it will quickly disappear from theaters and wind up in near-constant rotation on the Lifetime Channel alongside the complete oeuvre of Tori Spelling. When this happens, by the way, and you hear laughter on the 22nd floor, you can safely enter the room because if some friends of yours are inside, you can rest assured that they probably aren’t watching “Made of Honor.”
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