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'27 Dresses' is a formulaic, prefab romantic comedy

'27 Dresses' is a formulaic, prefab romantic comedy

“27 Dresses” is the kind of movie that makes you want to raise your arms and surrender to the devil

“27 Dresses” is the kind of movie that makes you want to raise your arms and surrender to the devil of flat-out dull taste. It is so glib, so blandly formulaic that you do not even want to raise a flag of protest.

And why should you even bother to rail against this Lifetime pastiche of paint-by-numbers direction and writing? It is not even shrewd enough to pretend to be anything other than what it is, which is a stale, rose-scented ditty to dime-store romance and manufactured bridal bliss.

Give it an E for effrontery, for it is an unabashed attempt to catch the fancy of every girl and woman who dreamed and still dreams of falling head over heels and then playing Princess Di for a day.

Doubtless, some of you will glance at the byline and forgive my trespass by citing a gender fault. I can hear the indignant chorus of huzzahs: “Hey, he’s a guy. What do you expect?” Alas, I expect and demand what I hope every woman wants from a romantic comedy, and that is some original, uncanned fun. “27 Brides” is canned, romantic hogwash, engineered by a writer named Aline Bosh McKenna, the same Aline Bosh McKenna who penned the script for “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Attractive presence

Katherine Heigl, bless her soul, is a perky, attractive presence as Jane, the forlorn assistant who spends her time finding future brides she will support as bridesmaid. Sometimes two weddings in one day, and in the crammed closet of her Manhattan apartment are 27 gowns, some of which are featured in a modeling montage sure to delight readers of magazines like Bride. Alas, Jane’s problem is that she sees herself as a perennial Numera Dos, hoping, as she says, that “Someday will be my day. Someday these people will be there for me.”

It’s hard to believe someone as attractive as Heigl would be pining away in virtual spinsterhood, but then again it’s hard to believe much of anything that happens in this early Valentine to marital hope and bliss. We’re expected to believe, among other things, that she’s in love with her boss, played with wooden stiffness by Edward Burns, who has as much romantic appeal as a log, and as a lead in this type of film, no match for any able community theater performer in any American midsize city.

Heigl plays Jane from Weehawken, N.J., daughter of a widower-hardware store owner; Jane has a sister, Tess, with cover-girl looks, and wouldn’t you know that as soon as he sees her, Burns’s George falls head over heels. Poor Jane, and lucky Tess, who is played by Malin Ackerman, the Swedish actress who was really quite good as the klutzy bride in “The Heartbreak Kid.” Now that we have the formula of the glitzier rival, add to the concoction the wisecracking friend. Poof! There she is — Casey, played by Judy Greer.

Oops. Almost forgot that guy out there the wings, who really may be the guy Jane is meant for. He is Kevin, a lifestyle, wedding-covering reporter played by James Marsden. And where is the song they will do to perk things up? It’s “Benny and the Jets,” blandly performed in a place called Rhinebeck, N.Y., which, Kevin quips, is right out of “Deliverance.”

By the book

You know that Bosh and director Anne Fletcher got their story and approach right out of a “How-to-Make-A-Romantic-Comedy” primer, and you have to give them credit for following the directions step by step. They know their target audience of women will want to see fashion and feel for a poor wannabe bride who relegates herself to second fiddle.

Nothing wrong with appealing to the “I-Wanna-Walk-Down-The-Aisle” dream of most females, but does everything have to be so flat, so uninspired, so damn tired and tiring?

Pull back and you can still take a liking to Heigl, who, with her unpretentious approach and girl-next-door looks, has the makings of a romantic lead. But not in movies like this assembly-line special.

Oh, how we miss the likes of Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Katharine Hepburn. And even more, the funny, witty, adorably romantic scripts penned by men like Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch.

Reach Gazette film critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]

‘27 Dresses’

DIRECTED BY Anne Fletcher

SCREENPLAY BY Aline Bosh McKenna

STARRING Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns, Malin Ackerman and Judy Greer

RATED PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

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