Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for language and mature themes
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
After all the hoopla of the holidays – when somber fare rules the silver screen – “Dresses” is a refreshingly frothy change of pace.
Thanks to Katherine Heigl, who parlays a little “Knocked Up” charm into a Meg Ryan-esque quest for her happily-ever-after.
Its sloppy seconds for perpetual bridesmaid Jane Nichols (Heigl) who eats, sleeps and breathes the elusive enchantment of weddings. Jane is such a fan that friends and acquaintances look to her for all manner of arduous nuptial planning. Consequently it’s always the bridesmaid, never the bride for an earnest second fiddle who focuses on everyone else’s happiness at the expense of her own.
To make matters worse this sincere singleton toils in the taffeta ghetto while nurturing an unhealthy crush on her clueless but hunky boss George (Edward Burns). Salvation arrives in the form of Jane’s glamour-puss sister Tess (Malin Akerman), a flighty supermodel who’s just what the doctor ordered for support and distraction.
At least that was the plan. Tess and George fall head over heels on sight, leaving Jane with a clunky finish to her knight-in-shining-armor fantasies and yet another invitation to duty as a not-so-merry maid.
Enter classic spoiler Kevin (James Marsden), a cynical New York journalist who meets Jane at a friend’s wedding (natch) and considers her plight perfect fodder for his popular “Commitments” column. Will Kevin get more than he bargained for?
There’s absolutely nothing new to this Cinderella story that telegraphs its routine complications with blithe indifference to its formulaic forerunners. Fortunately the conventional elements are cobbled together with perky panache, from the quippy sidekick (the irrepressible Judy Greer) to some witty scripting (co-ed mojito and burrito tasting anybody?) and a hilariously tipsy bar rendering of “Benny and the Jets”.
Heigl is a surprising master of the physical comedy while radiating a girl-next-door appeal that’s hard to resist, even when packaged with an overdose of winsome window-dressing.
And then there are the dresses, twenty seven to be exact, frilly testament to the romantic secondary and homage to the nice girls who don’t always finish last.