Dir: Paul Weiland . US. 2008. 101 mins.
Just as its charming main character's plan to ruin his female best friend's wedding only succeeds in bringing himself down as well,sodoes Made Of Honor start off with a breezy likeability before sabotaging itself with generic, unsatisfying plotting. Despite appealing performances from Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan, this romantic comedy is maniacally conventional, stifling its leads' obvious spark along the way.
Made Of Honor, quite evidently inspired by the 1997 Julia Roberts vehicle My Best Friend's Wedding (which took a hefty $300m worldwide) opens wide today (May 2) in the US where it will benefit from its simple plotline and emerging (or re-emerging) talents. Patrick Dempsey's feature-film stock is certainly on the rise again after his success in last year's romantic comedy Enchanted ($128m domestic; $211m international), while Michelle Monaghan co-starred in The Heartbreak Kid ($37m domestic; $91m international). Going toe to toe with the male-skewing Iron Man, Made Of Honor looks to woo women and date audiences before the Cameron Diaz-led What Happens In Vegas emerges seven days later. At the very least, though, the film should outperform last May's romantic counter-programmer, Lucky You, which was crushed by Spider-Man 3 and barely passed $8m worldwide.
Made Of Honor will move into international territories through the summer, where its marriage-themed plot should strike a chord everywhere. Once its theatrical window expires, ancillaries seem almost certain to find their happily ever after.
Unapologetic New York ladies' man Tom (Dempsey) is close to only one woman, his best friend Hannah (Monaghan). But when she goes to Scotland for six weeks on business, he realises he has feelings for her. His plan to confess his love to Hannah goes awry, though, when she returns to announce that she's met the man of her dreams, Colin (McKidd), and that they'll be getting married in two weeks. He agrees to be her maid of honour, but only so that he can secretly undermine the forthcoming nuptials.
The opening reels of Made Of Honor raise hopes that the film will be a fluffy but fun romantic comedy. Dempsey and Monaghan are flirty and affectionate in these early scenes, despite the fact that it comes across like a Sex And The City-style idealisation of sophisticated, attractive, affluent New Yorkers whose every line of dialogue is a frothy witticism.
But problems arise once Tom decides that he must destroy Hannah and Colin's happy day and the film's loose playfulness gives ground to a more contrived, vaguely mean-spirited tone. As is typical in these romantic triangles, Colin is a dashing saint - he's a duke, an excellent singer, and well-endowed - until he and his stereotypically Scottish family start behaving poorly once the wedding nears. Meanwhile, Hannah conveniently forgets all the reasons that made Tom such a good friend, causing artificial obstacles that keep him from winning her heart.
The script (credited to Adam Sztykiel and the writing team of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, from a story by Sztykiel) does pursue a briefly intriguing satirical conceit: after he accepts the emasculating role of maid of honour, man's-man Tom must go through a series of sexual humiliations, all so that he can learn to become a real man for Hannah. But a few jokes stemming from bystanders' assumptions that he's homosexual don't makethis into an edgy commentary on gender roles.
While Dempsey and Monaghan display genuine warmth in the early going, they don't get many good moments once plot machinations take over. Kevin McKidd can't do much with a character designed to be first boringly perfect and then completely undesirable, and Made Of Honor wastes usually-reliable comedic actor-director Sydney Pollack in a bit role as Tom's dad.
Director Paul Weiland and his cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts give the New York and Scotland locations a glossy, sumptuous look, but while Made Of Honor aspires to fairy-tale ideas of true love, there's something decidedly earthbound and pedestrian about its execution.
Neal H. Moritz
(story by Adam Sztykiel)