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Forget the 'Bride,' the Audience Should Run

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 1999

  Movie Critic


Runaway Bride
Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in "Runaway Bride." (Paramount)

Director:
Garry Marshall
Cast:
Julia Roberts;
Richard Gere;
Joan Cusack;
Hector Elizondo;
Rita Wilson
Running Time:
1 hour, 56 minutes
PG
Contains bile-provoking cuteness and a few risque comments from a grandmother who ought to know better
Julia! Is that you? How are you, darling? Loved "Notting Hill." Really.

Listen, I'm on speaker phone, so the Weekend readers can tune in – okay? Good. I'm calling about "Runaway Bride," your new movie with the whole "Pretty Woman" team. Huh? No, I didn't like it. Let me be straight with you, Jule. Because we're friends. They hung you out to dry.

What was that? Oh sure, a reunion with Richard Gere and Hector Elizondo and director Garry Marshall must have seemed like a great idea at the time. But did you read the script first? See, that's what I'm talking about, Jule. You've got to read the script. What? I know you don't have time to get to all of them. Here's a thought for next time: Check out the ones you're gonna be in, okay?

Let's go over this quickly. I've only got so much time. You're this beautiful woman in Hale, Md., who has this problem of leaving your fiances at the altar. I believe you work in a hardware store, or something.

You've already ditched three guys, and they're all still living in Hale. They're not really that upset at you any more. In fact, everyone in that town is so nice and irresistible and eccentric and cute, they're not even real. They should have called that place Helium. And I assure you, they're not from Maryland! They must've been helicoptered in from Southern California.

Anyway, along comes Richard, who's a bombastic columnist for USA Today. By the way, did those guys buy their way into this movie? "Runaway Bride" is like one prolonged tribute to that paper.

Anyway, Richard's a cynical journalist who writes a piece making fun of you and your bridal psychosis – or whatever's wrong with you. So you write a letter to the paper, and the extremely responsive-to-the-readers editor of USA Today (Rita Wilson) &#!50; who happens to be his ex-wife! – immediately fires him.

So Richard – whose name is Ike Graham – comes to your town, looking to make a meal out of this story, because he learns you're engaged again, this time to a football coach called Bob (Christopher Meloni). And guess what? You guys start to like each other.

No, Jule. The love "twist" is not a surprise. I've seen a few of these romantic screwball films, and that's pretty much par for the course. Plus the previews give it away.

What? No, I didn't like the movie. Not even an itty-bitty bit. Yeah, I saw the part where you imitate a duck-billed platypus for your sister (Joan Cusack). And yeah, I'm sure Garry told you it was adorable. But it wasn't cute, because you're reduced to aping yourself – even more so than usual.

That charming thing only works if the story is good. And screenwriters Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott couldn't buy a clue! You know what else they wrote? "Three Men and a Little Lady." Puh-leez. And Richard Gere? Listen, I dig the whole Save Tibet thing. But in the movie, he seemed to be improvising his way from beginning to end, like he was disgusted with the actual script.

And don't get me started on that director. Oh man. I'm sure he's a sweetheart when you guys are tooling round the pool. But I can't emphasize enough: He may be the most irredeemably shameless kitsch-meister in Hollywood. No, that's not a compliment. That's "bad" on this coast. You saw "Beaches" and "The Other Sister," right? We're talking grounds for exile to Elba. When he calls for another "Pretty Woman" reunion, tell him you're too busy with "Notting Hill II" to do the project. Gotta go. Stay in touch. Kisses. And start reading those scripts, please.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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