Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Made of Honor

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Can a prick be a romantic comedy hero? The makers of Made of Honor certainly think so, relying on residual audience affection for Patrick Dempsey, the teen heartthrob of frothy 1980s romances (Can't Buy Me Love, Some Girls) turned dewy-eyed McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy. But even with his woo meter on high (and often into the shrill range), Dempsey can't redeem the preening selfishness of his confirmed bachelor in this charmless reworking of My Best Friend's Wedding (1997).

Dempsey's man-child Tom belongs to a particular breed of romantic antihero, forced out of narcissistic solitude by unexpected love. This scenario works — see Hugh Grant in About a Boy (2002) or even Mel Gibson in What Women Want (2000) — when adults actually choose to grow up, which is never Tom's goal. Like Julia Roberts in Wedding, he accepts a key role in the nuptials of his best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), in order to stop the marriage. After a decade of being everything to each other but lovers, Tom realizes the depth of his feelings for her, just as Hannah announces she's marrying Colin (Kevin McKidd) after a fairytale courtship.

Mirthless and slipshod, Made of Honor is unrelentingly puerile despite the engaging Monaghan. Her accomplished Hannah is frozen in idiosyncratic habits (and a Tom-centered routine) when she suddenly blooms in the warm heat of a whirlwind romance. As her impressive Scottish fiance, McKidd is magnetic despite being more ideal than real. Like Monaghan, and unlike Dempsey (who's lost all of his Enchanted sparkle), McKidd retains his dignity when Made turns truly McStinky.

Director Paul Weiland (For Roseanna) gleefully portrays Tom's self-involved perspective, particularly in a Halloween 1998 flashback. Wearing a Bill Clinton mask and twirling a cigar as he encounters numerous beret-wearing Monica Lewinskys (with a lone Hillary as a buzz kill, a role she continues to enjoy today), Tom cuddles up to an unsuspecting Hannah instead of her drunken dorm roommate.

With her outraged, challenging response, their relationship quickly falls into the buddy/bimbo dichotomy, a modern variation on Freud's Madonna-whore complex. Tom sees Hannah as a smart social companion, trusted confidante, and accepting partner, but sex is reserved for a series of compliant and vacuous women. Adopting more than Bill Clinton's visage, Tom views women according to his needs, believing he deserves to win over Hannah despite a habit of diddling around.

Serena Donadoni writes about film and culture for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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