Movies thrive on smackdowns. “Clash of the Titans.” “Alien vs. Predator.” “Freddy vs. Jason.” “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. And now, Bridezilla vs. Bridezilla. Kate Hudson (who co-produced) and Anne Hathaway play BFFs who are sweetly supportive of each other for two decades, linked in part by their shared obsession with the perfect wedding, until they both get engaged. At first, they are delighted and agree to be each other’s maids of honor. But when the only available spots at their dream location of The Plaza are at the same time, their brief attempt to resolve the conflict quickly escalates to armed combat.
Hudson plays a lawyer named Liv, a hard-charging, keep-it-all-together type with severe bangs and black-rimmed eyes that are supposed to make her look severe but just look raccoon-ish. Hathaway is Emma, a sweet-natured teacher who gets pushed around by everyone. But when it comes to her wedding, she decides to push back.
The promising premise and surface gloss are entertaining and Hudson and Hathaway just about own the adorable category these days. But this story has a sour taste and a hollow heart. The men in the story are disposable accessories, never consulted or considered, barely remembered. Not only is there no suggestion that they or their families might have some role to play in planning the wedding, there is almost no suggestion that they might have some reason for being there after the honeymoon. Weddings are like some huge supermarket sweep of frantic me-me-me events. Both women have to shanghai substitute maids of honor. They engage in an embarrassing dance-off at the bachelorette party to see who is sexier. Co-screenwriter Casey Wilson (of “Saturday Night Live”) shows up as another bride and the regal Candace Bergen appears as the most sought-after wedding planner but here is not one woman in the story who shows any consideration or affection for a man. A friend of Kate’s and Liv’s who gets married at the beginning of the film is already planning her next wedding by the end. The only love story that matters here is the one between Kate and Liv. No one ever asks if any of this madness serves any purpose other than one-upmanship. This is not a story about people getting married — this is a movie version of playing with Barbies.
Cory (Dan Byrd) is not enthusiastic about meeting Dan (Tom Nowicki) and Michele (Robin O’Dell), his new foster parents. Clearly, he has already decided it makes no sense to allow himself to get close to people. He responds to their kindness and patience by thawing a little, but it is not until his choir goes to perform at a nursing home that he finds someone to feel close to.
It is Carlotta (Julie Harris), like Cory also unhappy and out of place. Cory buys Carlotta the ingredients she needs to make her special candy, halvah. He loves to hear about her life in the circus, and as they become close they agree to be each other’s family.
When Cory thinks he overhears Michelle and Dan saying they are going to send him away, he goes to see Carlotta, and they agree to run away together. At first, they are able to support themselves by selling halvah. But when someone threatens to report Cory as truant from school, they run away. They find a circus and persuade Boss Ed (Mickey Rooney) to take them on to sell concessions. Carlotta meets up with some old friends and Cory makes some new ones (and triumphs over a jealous bully). They are very happy, until Carlotta becomes ill and has to go to the hospital. The circus has to leave without them, but Cory finds a way to have the family he dreamed of. This sweet, episodic story has many magical moments. The backstage glimpses of circus life are delightful. Cory even gets some batting advice from Joe DiMaggio, who appears as himself. Families of all kinds will respond to this story about people who triumph over a series of obstacles to create a family for themselves.
Kate Hudson wrote and directed an endearing short film with an all-star cast that is an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival. Virginia Madsen stars as a mother whose daughter (Dakota Fanning) has a dream that reminds her of the dream she had when she was young. “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart plays Madsen’s character as a teenager and Kurt Russell (Hudson’s real-life step-dad) plays her father. The cast also includes Chevy Chase. It is well worth a look for its heartwarming story and appealing performances.
A fond farewell to Bea Arthur, best remembered as the strident, ground-breaking “Maude” and as Dorothy on “The Golden Girls.” I loved her duet in “Mame” and I loved her gutsy bravado and brilliant comic timing.