Then there are the 27 really bad bridesmaid dresses Heigl’s character Jane keeps in her closet. Quite spectacular really--ranging from a Goth rocker dress dog collar and all to a rodeo Western dress complete with cowboy hat. You see the completely selfless Jane is pretty much the world’s best bridesmaid. She’s happy to put on the most heinous outfit because she knows this is her girlfriend’s day and anything she wants goes. Thing is Jane forgets about taking care of herself forever putting aside her own hopes and dreams. Then she meets Kevin (James Marsden) a newspaper reporter on the bridal beat who witnesses Jane’s bridesmaid expertise one evening and decides a story about this wedding junkie is his ticket to journalism fame. Jane initially brushes him off--until her younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) comes to town and steals the heart of her boss (Edward Burns) a man Jane has been pining for for years. With Kevin’s influence Jane finally realizes it’s time to stop eating someone else’s wedding cake and take a stand. Heigl is on a roll these days. She got Knocked Up in one of last year’s funniest comedies and then won the Emmy for her role on Grey’s Anatomy. It makes sense she’d follow things up with 27 Dresses since she’s now considered the new go-to girl for romantic comedies. Of course Heigl as the “plain Jane” sister next to Akerman’s glitzy blondie is a tad unrealistic but Heigl totally sells it. The actress should be cautious about doing too many rom-coms however because she could pigeonhole herself and never be able to shake it (Meg Ryan anyone?). Marsden and Burns are adequate as the love interests with Marsden coming out of it smelling the sweetest. Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) does what she can with the thankless role of bridezilla. But the real gem is Judy Greer as Jane’s coworker and resident wisecracker. The supporting actress has done the “best friend” character in countless romantic comedies--and in wedding ones to boot such as The Wedding Planner--but we never tire of her snarky enthusiasm. Director Anne Fletcher’s film career has been mostly as a choreographer specializing in comedies such as Along Came Polly The Wedding Planner and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (did they dance in that?). She got her directing break when they handed her the reigns to modest dance hit Step Up but it’s obvious being involved in all those romantic comedies rubbed off on Fletcher as she handles 27 Dresses with ease. Directing fluff movies of this kind has got be fairly easy technically speaking but Fletcher isn’t quite experienced enough to bring out the best in her actors which is what makes or breaks a good romantic comedy. That and the script of course--which unfortunately for 27 Dresses is a rather pedestrian effort from The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna. The film’s highlight is definitely when Jane models all 27 bridesmaid dresses but other than that it’s all pretty formulaic.
Tragedy strikes the Marshall University community when a plane crash claims the lives of most of the football team coaches and some fans. With the whole town traumatized university president Donald Dedmond (David Strathairn) thinks it's best to cancel the football program but remaining players led by Nate Ruffin (Anthony Mackie) rally the school to support continuing the team's honor. Of course nobody wants to coach in these circumstances--that is until rogue bad boy Jake Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) asks for the job. Along with surviving assistant coach Red Dawson (Matthew Fox) they build the team back up. Just putting the team back together raises the town's spirits but getting back the winning record is another story. This could have easily been a sappy tearjerker but it sticks to the high road for the most part. There are some sad scenes (i.e. the cheerleader [Kate Mara] returning the engagement ring her dead boyfriend gave her to his mourning daddy) but otherwise the focus is on moving ahead. Just about every actor gets at least one big moment to cry. That's a given in a story of this nature and some of them are better than others. Mackie's stoic attempt to take punches in an injured shoulder is full of passion but Fox's random breakdown is well just like a flashback from Lost. He is better on the field showing us a side to his personality we haven’t seen yet. Strathairn seems the most sympathetic as the pained authority figure making tough decisions. Mara (Brokeback Mountain) looks so innocent you just want to hold her hand and stroke her hair every time she wells up. Aside from that there's also a lot of personality in the film. McConaughey leads the team with a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his lips but it never comes across as insensitive. He’s hip so of course he's the one who can lead them out of tragedy. And as an ensemble film the cast comes together as a community in which a single tragedy can affect them all and a single victory can give them hope. McG totally restrains his bombastic Charlie's Angels style of filmmaking for this character piece. Just about the only noticeably fancy shot is a dissolve from Mara looking up at the plane to her boyfriend staring out the airplane window. It's a moving moment because we know what is coming and it does not call too much attention to the filmmaking process. McG knows how to do some great montages too. Recruiting the new players running the drills--they're all full of visual moments set to a rocking soundtrack. Most importantly he handles the tragedy with class and doesn’t deliberately try to jerk tears. The plane crashes with only a single jump and a fade to black but the wreckage burns through our hearts. Instead McG shows there's a way to honor the dead to take back a community's pride and let life go on without disrespecting any of the departed. The football games in We Are Marshall are filmed with visceral impacts pretty much the way most sports movies are. There's no Friday Night Lights grit but that's fine. These games are about telling a story not exposing the seedy underbelly of the sport.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.