Correction to This Article
A film review of "27 Dresses" in today's Weekend section, which was printed in advance, misspelled the name of actor James Marsden.

'27 Dresses': No Bouquets for the Bridesmaid

Katherine Heigl and James Marsden star in this romantic comedy about a woman who, tired of being a bridesmaid, faces the prospect of watching the man she loves marry her sister. Showtimes
By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008

After a notable feature debut in "Knocked Up," Katherine Heigl makes an official bid for America's Sweetheart in her sophomore effort, "27 Dresses," a romantic comedy that -- despite her undeniable, apple-cheeked appeal -- sags like a day-old bouquet.

Heigl plays Jane, a hardworking Manhattan administrative assistant who gives new meaning to the term "always a bridesmaid." Turns out "27 Dresses" refers to the number of weddings in which she has served in that thankless capacity, including two that, in a preposterous early sequence, occur on the same night. It's during that completely illogical series of scenes that Jane meets Kevin (James Marsden), a cute guy with his own interest in nuptials, who begins to pursue Jane even though she's in love with her boss (Edward Burns).

Things get -- well, not interesting, but thingier when Jane's supermodel little sister Tess (Malin Akerman) shows up, throwing an extroverted, platinum-blond spanner into the already shaky works. It's at this point that "27 Dresses" becomes a movie not about people or relationships, but about cute apartments and cuter outfits, to which Jane's adorable wardrobe of skirts divertingly attests.

There is not one surprising, charming or endearingly quirky thing about "27 Dresses," which hews to the rom-com formula with bland, regimented precision. This is a movie that actually invokes the term "Bridezilla" as if it's a brand-new idea instead of a ready-for-retirement cliche; Jane even has a smart-mouthed sidekick, played by the often wonderful Judy Greer with visions of Emily Blunt's brilliantly blase turn in "The Devil Wears Prada" clearly dancing in her head. (As it happens, "27 Dresses" was written by "Prada" screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna.)

It's not that Heigl isn't terrific -- as her fans from "Grey's Anatomy" know, she has what it takes to make viewers care about her, even if her blond perfection would usually make them (okay, half of them) want to wring her flawlessly swanlike neck. (For his part Marsden, fresh from his amusingly dim turn in "Enchanted," is unobjectionable and little else.) But you know even her warmth and vulnerability can't save "27 Dresses" when the movie's central set piece -- a montage in which Jane tries on all of the titular gowns, whose styles range from cowgirl to geisha to Southern belle -- slumps into an anticlimactic heap.

Director Anne Fletcher is best known in Hollywood as a choreographer, for such productions as "Step Up" and the recent "Walk Hard," which makes it all the more surprising that her staging in that scene falls so flat. Similarly, when Jane and Kevin break out in a drunken version of "Benny and the Jets" atop a roadhouse bar counter, the scene plays as if it were extruded from some vast pipe works hidden deep under Hollywood.

"27 Dresses" notwithstanding, Heigl has a bright big-screen future ahead of her -- as long as she snags the right material, and as long as that material doesn't come with matching shoes.

27 Dresses (107 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for profanity, some sexuality and innuendo.

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