“From the writer of ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’” screams the poster for the new comedy “27 Dresses,” and while that earlier film was a sprightly and entertaining adaptation of a contemporary best-seller, its 1950s heart was loaded with propaganda telling women that they needed to focus on getting a man instead of on their careers. Writer Aline Brosh McKenna’s latest effort instructs women to be doormats for men who treat them like crap, because heaven forbid they wind up never getting married. Is Phyllis Schlafly using a pen-name?
“Dresses” stars Katherine Heigl as Jane, a magazine assistant who lives to fix other people’s weddings. After rescuing a bride with a torn train when Jane was just a flower girl, she’s gone through life helping others to pull off the perfect nuptials. But what does she have to show for it? A 10-year unspoken crush on her perfect-guy boss George (Edward Burns) and a closet stuffed with the titular outfits, an array of bridesmaids gowns from themed weddings that range from cowgirl to Goth to underwater to trampy to plantation hoop-skirt. (One expects a faux-fur bikini to join the pile at any moment.)
Jane’s other fixation is to clip and save the gushy wedding announcements from the newspaper which are, unbeknownst to her, written pseudonymously. That’s convenient for the plot because when she meets Kevin (James Marsden) — the writer of those announcements — at a wedding, they click despite his tart cynicism about matrimony and the rites surrounding it.
Prompted by her snarky best friend Casey (Judy Greer) — and in dippy romantic comedies like this, the snarky best friend is always the most interesting person in the movie — Jane decides to tell George how she feels, but she winds up getting cut off at the pass by her sister Tess (Malin Akerman), a glamorous model. (As if in any universe Katherine Heigl is a plain Jane.)
Tess and George hit it off — thanks partially to her white lies about being a vegetarian and dog-lover, just like George — and Jane is once again pressed into wedding service. Meanwhile, Kevin has decided he’s going to rip the lid off the oppressive wedding industry by writing an article about Jane and her obsessions that will turn her into a public laughing stock.
Because the movie desperately needs a villain — and it’s not daring enough to let one of the men become that — Tess goes from moderately self-obsessed to full-on Bridezilla, sparking Jane to sabotage Tess and George’s rehearsal dinner.
But by this point, “27 Dresses” has clearly shown its hand. It plays every cutesy trick in the rom-com book, including a boozy barroom sing-along to “Benny and the Jets” led by Jane and Kevin, and it insists on its women winding up in the arms of its men, no matter how undeserving any of those men might be.
And Katherine Heigl has been promoting this movie by calling her breakout hit “Knocked Up” sexist? Get out of the glass wedding chapel before you start throwing those stones.