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By Film critic
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/9/2009 9:15:34 AM ET 2009-01-09T14:15:34
REVIEW

As if to assuage the anxieties of the millions of same-sex couples deprived of the right to wed in this nation, here comes “Bride Wars” to make the entire institution of marriage look almost as awful as last year’s dreadful “27 Dresses” did.

Yes, it’s January, so once again it’s time to endure a romantic comedy about women who feel less-than without that ring on their finger. The added bonus of “Bride Wars” — assuming you’re a misogynist — is that it portrays the contemporary American female as someone who will stab her lifelong friend in the back should said pal stand in the way of a dream wedding. (All of which would be forgiven, of course, if the script made us care about, or even want to laugh at, either of its leads.)

Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson, sporting the worst bangs ever) are the chums in question, and ever since childhood they've each dreamed of having a lavish June wedding at New York's legendary Plaza Hotel. (And no, this isn’t a period piece; we’re to believe that two girls raised in the 1990s outside of a polygamist camp have literally been obsessing their entire lives about walking down the aisle.)

Naturally, they both get engaged at the same time, and due to a mix-up with their wedding planner (Candice Bergen, starving for just one funny line), there’s but a single day in June available for them. Their fiancés reasonably suggest a double wedding, but sweet Emma, who’s a doormat for Liv and any other woman with a personality, stamps her foot and declares that this one day is going to be all about her, while bulldozer Liv also resolutely refuses to back away.

The rivalry between the two gets ugly, with the women sabotaging each other’s visits to tanning and hair salons. Emma sends treats to Liv’s office in the hopes that her former BFF will get too fat to squeeze into her Vera Wang gown. (We’re told twice in the film that “You don’t alter Vera to fit you; you alter yourself to fit Vera.”) One of the few funny gags in “Bride Wars” involves a mention of “International Butter Club” as one of the high-calorie goodies Emma sends Liv’s way.

This all leads to a catfight in tulle, which is the money shot for a movie this singularly odious.

Video: Kate Hudson One has to wonder if the critics who spewed vitriol all over “Sex and the City” last year have watched movies like this one, where women turn on each other at the slightest provocation while the men around them cluck condescendingly. Hudson has a particularly insulting meltdown scene in her law firm that no actress in the 21st century should be forced to play on screen. Not even Kate Hudson.

Video: Anne Hathaway “Bride Wars” follows the usual chick-flick route by giving us two lead characters with one discernible personality trait each, male characters who are completely bland and interchangeable (Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt and Steve Howey all seem, to quote “Steel Magnolias,” “carved out of cream cheese”), and some sass-mouth second bananas to spice things up.

So raise a glass to Kristen Johnston, Michael Arden and “Saturday Night Live” regular Casey Wilson for giving “Bride Wars” whatever jolts it has during their brief moments on screen. They’re the candied almonds that make this sea-foam punch of a movie even remotely swallowable.

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