'27 Dresses' has heart in the right place

"27 Dresses" is a solid, feel good romantic comedy, filled with attractive people, and offering a nice balance between romance and those moments that make the audience smile, even chuckle on occasion.

Films of this ilk, focusing in the main on women, are often called chick flicks. But that term always seems a bit disparaging, as if movies told from the point of view of a young woman lack the weight of the countless male-centered buddy films that Hollywood turns out.

"27 Dresses" does follow what can be thought of as a romantic comedy template, a familiar structure which telegraphs its ending and is always satisfying to the audience. Think only of three recent films &

"Maid in Manhattan," "How to Lose a Guy in Ten days," and "The Wedding Planner" &

and you find the same structure found in "Dresses."

As an aside, if the film doesn't have a right ending, meaning something unexpected happens which robs the couple of their happily ever after moment, then it qualifies as a tragic love story, a good example being "Titanic." Of course, an unrequited ending doesn't diminish the intensity of the love story nor the emotional investment of the audience in the narrative.

But back to the template: Consider that most romantic comedies have three acts.

Act one introduces the characters. In the case of "27 Dresses" it's Jane (Katherine Heigel), the quintessential "always a bridesmaid, never a bride." This act also hints at the obstacles facing Jane in her search for that special someone so that she too can have her special day. As it turns out, she has already picked out Mr. Right (Ed Burns), who is her boss at work. She's his executive assistant. Enter Mr. Wrong (James Marsden), a journalist who writes about weddings for the New York Journal. We see Jane rushing from wedding to wedding, always helpful, always there in a pinch, and miserable that her moment doesn't seem to be on the horizon. Mr. Wrong is curious about her ubiquitous presence and thinks maybe he has a story.

As act two unfolds, the audience quickly understands that Mr. Wrong just might be Mr. Right; however, Jane doesn't see it. There's chemistry, but it's oil and water, lots of bickering, don't call me I'll call you dialogue. A sizable obstacle is thrown into the mix when her younger sister, Tess, turns up, meets her boss, they fall in love, and Tess asks Jane to plan her wedding. Jane, ever the good sport, agrees, all the while grieving for the loss of Mr. Right. We feel her pain. Meanwhile, Mr. Wrong keeps appearing in her life, serendipitously, and always with disastrous and comedic results. Meanwhile, the audience is confident that Mr. Wrong will morph into Mr. Right, and so they willingly and happily suspend their disbelief that these two people genuinely don't like each other.

Now for act three, which has embedded in it the light bulb moment. That's when Jane suddenly realizes, after much trial and error, that Mr. Wrong is really Mr. Right. Jane races across Manhattan to find Mr. Wrong/Right, declares her newly found insight and, finally, they embrace. It was right there in front of her all the time. Generally there's a denouement. In the case of "27 Dresses" it takes place one year later when we see Jane and Mr. Right at their wedding, surrounded by all of her bridesmaids from previous weddings, wearing a sampling of all the gowns she wore in prior weddings and saved. The happily ever after moment is delivered, vows made, and the credits roll. Predictable, formulaic to be sure. But also entertaining, in a light, sentimental and breezy way. In romantic comedies, it's not just the destination (Mr. Right and that glorious wedding), but the journey.

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