Friday, May 27, 2011

Po returns in beautifully animated kung fu epic

Here’s my mini review:

Praise the panda. Prattling Po — plushy, perfectly plump and plagued with precociousness — ponders private parentage problems and protects his peaceful, panic-prone people in a peppy post-prequel packed with punkish pyrotechnics, pleasant protagonists, polished plots, persistent perkiness and prickly pirates in Panda Part 2. Partake the picture perhaps? I proudly proclaim in the positive.

Now the full review, which is good because I was running out of context-appropriate “P” words.

I am quite fond of the first Kung Fu Panda, which was all kinds of silly. Now here’s Kung Fu Panda 2, a sequel that begs to be so much more than the first one simply because it doesn’t deviate from the original’s charm.

Panda 2 is mostly more of what made the first film so delightful: Jack Black’s goofy humor, realistic kung fu, and an animation style that is quite simply beautiful with its deep textures and rich colors. The sequel goes beyond the first film, though, if only because it adds layers to the star, a lovable panda named Po, who still has learning and growing to undertake before he can be the great champion he was prophesied to become. The sequel also solves that lingering dilemma from the first film, which was how a goose could father a panda — yes, panda Po was adopted, to the thankfulness of Mrs. Goose (and the jealous-prone Mr. Goose for that matter).

Po is still in that lush valley with the Furious Five — Monkey, Snake, Tigress, Mantis and Crane, all-voiced by big-name talent — as they hone their martial arts skills and protect the cute little bunnies, pigs and ducks from roaming invaders and plunderers. In an early fight sequence, wolves rappel into the valley to steal everyone’s metal for a reason that’s sure to be nefarious. Po and his five friends dispatch the mangy beasts with their unmatched fighting skills, some of which are a little far-fetched, but fun nevertheless. For instance, dangle a tiger, panda and monkey from a snake and you’re likely to end up with two snakes.

It’s all quite implausible, even for an animated film, but the fighting styles are rooted in actual kung fu styles and movies. Po’s acrobatic spinning and fluttery flipping can be seen in any of the recent live-action classics: Once Upon a Time in China, Hero, Iron Monkey or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Much of the animated stunt work seems to be a specific homage to the films of Jackie Chan, who also does the voice of Monkey. In his prime, you could give Chan a shopping cart, pinball machine, metal ladder or just a bamboo pole and he could create inventive kung fu moves that were physically magnificent and tinted in delicate comedy. Kung Fu Panda 2 benefits from Chan’s lighter fighting style, and applies it to all kinds of high-flying animated battles. A chase sequence with rickshaws really stands out.

When the film isn’t dropping visual references to kung fu movies it seems to be miming some great gags from silent films, including a fight sequence where a musical bunny is shifted around a battle like a chess piece, and another in which Po tries to get an ox and crocodile out of a jail cell using a revolving cell door. The movie is very funny, and the voice acting is fantastic, but much of it plays out visually, in brilliantly choreographed routines.

It turns out the wolves are stealing metal to create a kung fu killer: massive cannons in the shape of Chinese dragons. The main villain is a nutty peacock voiced by — who else? — Gary Oldman. The peacock also has something to do with Po’s past, which creates a delay in Po’s kung fu. Tigress (Angelina Jolie) is developed much more in this film as she comes to understand Po’s increasing internal toil. Also returning is the great James Hong, who voices Po’s goose dad. Crouching Tiger alumnus Michelle Yeoh joins the cast to help Po as a soothsaying goat who frequently chews on the peacocks silk robes.  

I was wildly entertained throughout Kung Fu Panda 2, but I was especially impressed with the film’s many animation styles. Facial expressions, fighting stances, stunning landscapes … it all looked amazing. But there’s more: the opening credits, end credits, flashbacks, dreams and premonitions within the film are all shown in different animated styles. Some look like paper puppets, others are more akin to Japanese animation, and others more closely resemble traditional Disney hand-drawn animation. And each looks stunning.

It should be noted that the Panda franchise — expect a third one by the looks of the last scene — is a project by Dreamworks, not Pixar. Dreamworks’ animation is getting continuously better at digital animation. It’s unlikely that Pixar throne’s going to be toppled anytime soon, but panda Po represents a blossoming new dynasty in the animated kingdom.

And that’s positively pleasing.

To read my review of the original Kung Fu Panda, click here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Pirates suffers from old problems

It’s widely agreed that there were vast problems with the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and the reason they couldn’t be fixed was because both films — each following the same storyline — were shot at the same time. Try dropping anchor on that behemoth and you’re likely to capsize the ship.

Now here we are with a new Pirates, a fresh plot and more wiggle room to make a film that doesn’t have to cater to the story demands of a sequel. With more freedom Captain Jack Sparrow will soar again, right? Wrong.

All the agonizing issues with Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End have returned. It seems that spark from the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl, is forever gone, doused by the ocean’s mist I reckon.

Not to say that Pirates 4 — officially it’s called Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — is a bad film, because it’s not terrible. It’s just mediocre. Considering its potential, and its inflated budget, it should be so much better, especially since it had the opportunity to pop out of that rut created by the last films. Not helping the whole situation is the 3-D, which should have never been applied to a film this dark. Night scenes, dungeons, candlelit bars, underwater scenes, caves, underwater caves … these scenes would be dim even without the 3-D sunglasses. Please, see this movie in 2-D; if we avoid the 3-D versions, they’ll eventually just go away.

Returning are Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), saucy as ever, and the recently peg-legged Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who can’t decide if he’s a hero or a villain. Throughout Tides Jack and Barbossa routinely rotate allegiances with each other and with the other factions — England, Spain and the pirate Blackbeard aboard his treacherous ship Queen Anne’s Revenge — as they seek out the Fountain of Youth, a legendary mystery that Jack solves by using a magic compass. The film bypasses all the mystery and adventure of the fountain’s discovery with that stupid compass from the earlier films; too often it’s used to add more momentum to the plot by cheating. Certainly a treasure map would be a cliché, but also much more interesting.

Along the way, Jack encounters some new characters, including Angelica (Penélope Cruz), a sexy Spaniard who he had a fling with many years before. Jack still has a crush on her, though he can’t admit it — “If you had a sister and a dog, I would choose the dog,” he tells her. Angelica is the daughter of Blackbeard, a fearsome pirate who wants the Fountain of Youth to frighten off his executioner, who has been prophesied to be Barbossa. Jack’s dad, played by Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards, returns again and he still looks to be about 120 years old. Jack asks if he knows where the fountain is. Jack’s dad: “Does this face look like it’s seen the Fountain of Youth?”

Much of the dialogue is arbitrary and meaningless, but the actors seem to be having fun, especially Depp, who has found some kind of twitchy nirvana playing a boozy pirate dressed in his leathery layers and clanking accessories. Depp is a very physical comedian, and it shows in all his little gestures and tipsy nuances. I’m glad the franchise kept him aboard and made Orlando Bloom walk that plank.

As rip-roaring fun as Depp is, the plot has all the mechanical failures of the last films: too many side-quests, too many villains, too many double-crosses and side switchers, and way too many rules. The fountain requires a mermaid’s tear that requires a mermaid that requires a map that requires a compass that requires two silver chalices that requires a boat that requires a key that requires a … on and on into infinite. On Stranger Tides doesn’t feel like an adventure, it feels like a checklist at the grocery store. The film is never propelling itself forward on its own energy; it just sort of coasts on autopilot. And like every film before it, this one devotes much of the plot to Jack Sparrow as he tries to get a ship of his own. Apparently just starting the film with Sparrow on a ship is too much to ask.

The action is exciting and technically impressive. One chase sequence through London with burning coals has a wacky ending. A scene of a man being consumed by the Fountain of Youth is mighty cool; it reminded me of ol' popcorn face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Some of the action seems to copy the earlier films with swordfights in rafters, lots of swinging off things, and Jack and Barbossa fencing in a cave, which is exactly how Black Pearl ended. Then, as if to copy Twilight’s fading fame, the film introduces vampire mermaids who can shoot Spider-Man webs from their hands (?!?!).

On Stranger Tides is probably the second best Pirates movie, which might be faint praise, but praise nonetheless. It could do better, especially with its messy plot. What’s so odd to me is why its producers don’t require better. They have all the pieces right in front of them, but they continuously bungle the delivery. They need to streamline the story, take out all the different opposing factions and just let Jack be Jack in an adventure without so many moving parts. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From the Vault: At World's End

To celebrate the opening of the fourth Pirates movies — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — here is my original review of the third movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. My review of the new movie will be posted Friday morning.

And so the trilogy implodes. It’s happened to the best of many series — Spider-Man, Aliens, Shrek, The Matrix — and here it has happened to our beloved Pirates of the Caribbean, an franchise so rich in humor and adventure the first time around that it seemed invincible to even the mightiest cannons. Here, though, a single musket could sink it into the sea. And does.

I would have never thought an entire film could be sustained on hostage negotiations and Mexican standoffs alone, but, alas, here it is with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. The film — every bloated minute of it — consists of armed and unarmed negotiation, all of it with endless explanation with in-story footnotes, annotations on the footnotes, and footnotes on the annotations. For a movie about the freedom of the ocean there sure is a great number of rules to follow: nine pirates to a summit, majority vote gets to be king pirate, Flying Dutchman requires a captain, his heart the down payment, and don’t forget parlay. At World’s End creates a world that requires too many plot points to function without constant babysitting.

Meanwhile, the pirates just want to get to it, be it plundering, pillaging or the occasional skirt lifting (“ahlow, poppet”). Arrr! The life of a pirate requires much plot. Too much plot for At World’s End to really show off its creative underbelly of computer effects. In the opening scenes we’re given a beautiful ice world with icebergs and glacier flows. But then nothing happens to it; it was an expensive set decoration. As soon as the film does start to move around and gain momentum: “Whoa there, let’s negotiate this in a tedious below-deck stalemate in which we betray everyone who’s not present.” To my readers: If you can follow the plot to any degree of certainty then please write to the producers to ask for the scriptwriters’ jobs.

This third entry, At World’s End, picks up right where Dead Man’s Chest ended: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is in the belly of a beast, Will and Elizabeth (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) are without a ship and tentacle-faced Davey Jones (Bill Nighy) stalks the ocean with his barnacled crew. Davey Jones and his ship, the Flying Dutchman, are being manipulated into a war by the East Indian Trading Company, which is led by one of film’s most unhappy villains, Lord Beckett. Even victory would disappoint the wig-wearing Brit, who is so glum he should cut away the excess glumness and begin exporting it to overly happy peoples around the globe.

Disney has asked me politely (“we respectfully ask …” is the exact wording) not to reveal any of plot resolutions. They are asking not because it would ruin the film, but because if I dished the details you’d be unlikely to care. Or think I was bluffing. Truth is, not much happens. I can’t even imagine what’s not worth giving away. Will and Elizabeth get married? We saw that coming. Could it be that Jack isn’t really dead? Unlikely, because Jack’s on the movie’s poster. Or what about the death of a villain? Now that should be left out of reviews, but only because describing it would require more words than the film’s script.

Like another disastrous “threequel,” the overly-theorized Matrix Revolutions, At World’s End tried to make the story as meaty as the action. In the end, though, it created too much exposition for a story already bloated on exposition. I just wanted Jack Sparrow to be a pirate; I think that’s a reasonable request. And fret not about resolution: all the loose ends are tied up at the end, but that’s only because they’re all knotted on each other 80 minutes before the credits started rolling. Seriously, did we need six different betrayals by Will? Or three from Jack? Or a dozen “look at me, I’m a pretty girl pirate” moments from Elizabeth? What we needed was a swordfight from a windmill, or treasure hunt with a blood-soaked map, the sacking of a Cajun port, a gun battle on a ship’s mast or the plundering of a Spanish fleet. What do we get? Five open-ocean ship battles, a handful of swordfights and two hours spent talking. Woo-hoo! (Now whistle and twirl your finger in the air.)

I will give At World’s End credit, though, for its boat sequences. When the characters finally stop talking and begin sailing, they look amazing in their beautiful ships. Big, clipper-type ships look breathtaking on the big screen and they’re used too infrequently (pretty please with sugar on top see Master & Commander for a far better movie). At World’s End uses a wide variety of clipper ships, pirate frigates, Chinese sampans and British war vessels. They’re crewed by vulgar pirates and super-polite British sailors, the only difference between them is their dental plans. Occasionally these characters man cannons or muskets and take to oceanic warfare. At one point Jack Sparrow swings to a ship’s mast to grapple with a character who has the face of a octopus, the hand of a lobster and the legs of a crab — more than enough for a buffet at the Red Lobster. The scene is stunning for its vast and believable computer animation that supports it. 

The writing might go off the deep end, but the whole movie looks great. As do the stars. Depp isn’t given very much to do, but he makes do with what he’s given. In one scene he hallucinates a vision that multiplies himself dozens of times, creates rock-like crabs that can move great object and sails his ship on a wave of sand. The Depp act doesn’t feel as genuine as it did the first time, but his Sparrow is still very much a lovable character, even if it’s increasingly more prone to parody. Also, Sparrow is given a history this time around: he meets his pops, a seedy pirate played by Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards, which is bound to be the cameo of the year whether he snorted his father or not.

Bloom and Knightley are given more starring roles, but they spend so much time on opposite sides it’s easy to forget that a romance is buried in all the pirate politics. They needed more screen time together to make the ending more sustainable (by the way: stay through the credits for an extra scene). The side characters are the best, though, including a one-eyed pirate and his bald buddy, two blundering British soldiers, first mate Gibbs (Kevin McNally), a salty sea dog and his parrot, a monkey, and a small person, who fires a cannon so big it throws him backward into a pit. And Geoffrey Rush, as Captain Barbossa, is terrific if also clutter on an already crowded landscape.

I’m very disappointed in this last entry of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, was brilliantly funny and endlessly clever. The second film was a sequence of missed notes, and the third film is a symphony of missed notes. And it was on the right track for fun summer flick: the sum of all the set design, makeup, costumes, computer effects and lavish settings is production overkill but it makes for splendid visuals. If only there was a plot, at least one that we could grasp onto like the handle of a cutlass. Instead, we grab and grab and grab and come up with a big stinky piece of seaweed that is apparently the story. 

From the Vault: Dead Man's Chest

To celebrate the opening of the fourth Pirates movies — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — here is my original review of the second movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. My review of the new movie will be posted Friday morning.

When does marketing lead to mutiny? When you sell half a movie as a whole one and then make your customers wait for the ending until May 2007. That’s how you make the summer’s most beloved sequel into something to grumble at.

I blame the marketing of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest because the commercials are selling the movie as one complete entity. That’s the wrong approach to use on the most anticipated movie of the summer, especially when it ends … well, the way it does — I’m not going to give it away. Kill Bill broke itself into volumes; Pirates needs the same treatment. Or just call it a prequel to No. 3, at least then we know we’re only seeing the beginning of a story.

Ignoring the deceptive cliffhanger lurking toward the end of Dead Man’s Chest, this new Pirates movie plays a lot like the old one: swashbuckling, yadda yadda yadda, canon fire, blah blah blah, Johnny Depp playing Captain Jack Sparrow as a cartoon. No, actually a cartoon drawing of parody of a caricature made from a mascara sketch on a napkin. Depp has taken his drunk captain to the outer limits of reason and the movie suffers for it. What was refreshing and invigorating in the first movie, is simply obnoxious overacting in this one. Luckily Jack and Johnny are given lots to do and their superegos are given breaks during all the swashbuckling.

The new movie concerns a buried pirate’s chest (of course!) which does not contain gold doubloons or Spanish gemstones, but the beating heart of a cursed man who rules the sea, or is ruled by the sea — one of them. Whoever controls the heart controls the man. And since the man has a crew of undead sailors and a giant sea serpent at his disposal he is a valuable asset to control on the high seas.

The man is Davey Jones, a cursed pirate bound by love who roams the seas attacking ships at random. Hundreds of years before we catch up with him, Jones gave himself to the sea as a normal man, but after so long underwater his head is an octopus, his arm a crab claw and barnacles and mussels grow freely on his limbs. His crew, imprisoned for 100 years by their cursed captain, have undergone other hideous transformations; their bodies have taken on so many different kinds of ocean life they are no longer men but sampler platters.

For a variety of reasons, too many to list here, Captain Jack and young Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) head out on the open ocean to retrieve the beating heart before Davey Jones gets wise to the plan and before the East Indian Trading Company can get to it first. I liked the premise, but became more agitated with the plot as the movie unfolded. The movie was a kaleidoscope of redundancy: in two separate scenes giant round things go rolling through the jungle, there are two lengthy sea monster battles that are identical to each other and the motivating factor for every action is the same for all the characters. Everyone wants something and they’re willing to trade anything to get it: Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) for Will, Will for Jack, Jack for a key, the key for Elizabeth, Elizabeth for Elizabeth. Some movies have one exchange sequence, or Mexican standoff, but Pirates is made with them.

Although there is way too much bartering and trading among the characters, not to mention plot holes big enough to sail armadas through — How does Jack become chief of a cannibal village? — Dead Man’s Chest has its high points. They may be clones of each other, but the rolling sequences are fun: one is in a cage made of bones, the other is a sword fight on top of a water wheel. Jack Sparrow’s entrance doesn’t top his entry method in The Curse of the Black Pearl, but it comes mighty close. And some slapstick gags with Jack on a roasting kabob are enjoyable.

Everyone will have their favorite parts. Mine were the character effects of Davey Jones (no mention of his locker) and his crew, one of them being Will Turner’s dead father, Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård). At first glance they look like menacing zombies with their guts hanging out of their torsos, but look closer — they are made up entirely of ocean life. One sailor has a live eel protruding from his belly; whether it is a stowaway or actually his stomach is hard to determine. Another character has hermit crabs that take up residence in all the wrong places. Several sailors use swordfish and saw fish as — what else? — real weapons. And I thought the seafood at Sizzler was bad.

All this good stuff aside, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment when the movie ended. I wanted a resolution and all I was given was a teaser for a movie next summer. That’s called a rip-off in most parts. In the Caribbean it’s called pirating.

From the Vault: The Curse of the Black Pearl

To celebrate the opening of the fourth Pirates movies — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — here is my original review of the first movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. My review of the new movie will be posted Friday morning.

 Shiver me timbers, Pirates is good.

With Johnny Depp as the engagingly goofy pirate lead it couldn’t possibly be bad.

Depp plays a salty sea dog with gold teeth and a drunk swagger in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s second film based on attractions at its theme parks. The first was the worthless Country Bears; the third will be the Eddie Murphy vehicle The Haunted Mansion. I can't wait until they do a movie-version of that bitchin' Monorail. 

The press kit doesn’t refer to the movie as an interpretation of the Disneyland ride of the same name, a slow-moving boat ride among Cajun and Creole pirates as they loot and plunder the Big Easy; it’s an “homage,” the material says. Well, whatever it is, it weaves a swashbuckling adventure across the high seas, where bald men with earrings, naked lady tattoos and bad teeth can set sail in a yarn as wild as they get. And when someone gets in their way: Ar, they send’em down to Davey Jones’ locker in a rain of cannonball fire, or they make’em walk da plank. And thar be a sailor’s death, ye matie.

Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, an unlucky pirate recruited by Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the eager young blacksmith who must rescue his true love from cursed, more-evil pirates. Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the meanest pirate since One-Eyed Willie or Blackbeard, kidnaps Will’s young lass after she’s discovered with a missing piece of Aztec gold.
Barbossa and his vile crew on the Black Pearl, a mythical ship with coal-colored sails and a gray mist that follows behind it, unleashed a Spaniard curse when they stole the gold coins years before. Under the moonlight, their skin rots away leaving walking skeletons unable to feel, taste or smell. The only way they can break the curse is to return all the pieces of gold and sacrifice an innocent with the last coin.

The adventures in Pirates are numerous and far-reaching — sword battles in blacksmith shops, rope-swinging trickery on cluttered docks and crowded harbors, gun fights,  cannon battles and full-on wars in which British soldiers grapple with pirate skeletons. This is the kind of fodder summer movies were made to exploit.

Depp really makes this flick enjoyable, especially since he’s been mistaken as a pirate in real life. A rogue on his own merit, Depp is introduced here as a befuddled, yet rebellious, pirate who can’t seem to find his buccaneer groove. Jack’s Sparrow’s introduction into Black Pearl is unforgettable and it utilizes Depp’s natural comedic touch. Sparrow sails into port on a sinking boat, unfazed by his ship’s buoyancy.

Pirates of the Caribbean, directed by the same guy that did the creepy horror The Ring (Gore Verbinski), is Disney’s first PG-13 movie ever, and it should be. It’s a little too violent for the little ones, especially once the skeletons start attacking folks with meat hooks and cleavers.

Don’t get the wrong idea though, this is a Disney dazzler, one tough sea cracker (on land: cookie) that never takes itself too serious. And unlike too many movies out now, there’s plenty to see. At no time during this two-hour adventure is it not delivering on all cylinders. Ahoy, this be fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride

So Judd Apatow doesn’t hate women. Many knew this already, but here it is in Bridesmaids, an Apatow comedy with all the foulness and frank humor of any male-themed gross-out comedy.

It isn’t that Apatow hated women; he just preferred to point his cameras at men, probably because he understands them better since, oh, you know … he’s a man. Everyone seems to forget, though, that Apatow has filmed great female parts, including Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann in Knocked Up, and the wonderful Catherine Keener performance in 40-Year-Old Virgin, but nevermind.

Enough about Apatow; he only produced Bridemaids. Let me instead direct praise toward director Paul Feig, a prominent TV director who understands film just as well, and also writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who bring three-dimensional female characters to the foreground in a male-dominated genre. And look, no Will Ferrell or Seth Rogen anywhere in this!

Underrated Saturday Night Live writer Kristen Wiig stars in the film as the down-on-her-luck bridesmaid. She’s Annie, a plucky woman in her late 30s who hasn’t found fulfillment out of life. Her bakery closed, she’s single, she floats from bad relationship to bad relationship, and her car is a hunk of junk. She lives with an English brother and sister who have a rather odd relationship for siblings.

Annie’s childhood best friend Lillian (SNL alum Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and picks Annie to be the maid of honor. Trouble starts early when Annie meets one of the other bridesmaids, Helen (Rose Byrn), who is richer and snootier than Annie can tolerate. You've heard of the phenomenon of Bridezilla? Helen is bridezilla's evil sidekick. At one point Helen throws a Lillian a party: the invitations come with live butterflies, guests are taken to the party on horses, there’s a chocolate fountain of immense proportions and the party favors are yellow lab puppies. Helen is clearly spoiled beyond belief and it rubs Annie in all the wrong ways.

Wiig plays into all this with a very subtle, and seething, jealous rage. Her tart caricatures from SNL are gone, and instead we’re getting a personal and realistic performance of a woman drawn away from her best friend by jealousy, an emotion that women have mastered in Bridesmaids. The film seems to hint that women enjoy their female friends, but beneath the friendship there is a river of competition that flows like a torrent. Notice the early sequence at the engagement party as Annie and Helen one-up their dueling toasts to their friend. It’s painful and desperate, but to women it’s business as usual, albeit to an exaggerated degree.

By talking about the underlying themes I’m making the film sound less like a comedy so let me end that now: Bridesmaids is a hilarious exercise in role reversals. You’ve seen men behave badly in movies like The Hangover; well, here’s women doing embarrassing things in the name of comedy. If you’ve seen only a handful of comedies then you’ve seen the man-with-diarrhea scene. Well, here’s one with women that’s better. And it’s in a bridal boutique with its white carpets, white dresses and couture luxury. 

Wiig has some great physical scenes, including one where she’s drugged on an airplane and another in a car as she tries to get a cop’s attention. "Hey, arrest me, I'm driving topless," she screams at the cop as she zings past. She’s supported in these scenes by some very funny co-stars, especially Melissa McCarthy, who is the Zach Galifianakis oddity of the bunch. She’s silly and raw, and it will likely be a performance that will prove her worth in future comedies. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bridesmaids for all its obvious and not-so-obvious elements: the comedy and the deeper relationships women have with each other. They play against, and also with, each other in ways that are refreshing. Wiig has always been a force to be reckoned with, but here she proves she can play with the boys and beat them at their own game.