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Made of Honor

Director: Paul Weiland
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin McKidd, Kathleen Quinlan, Kadeem Hardison, Sydney Pollack

(Columbia Pictures; US theatrical: 2 May 2008 (General release); UK theatrical: 2 May 2008 (General release); 2008)

Happy if You're Happy

If she lived in another movie, you’d almost feel sorry for Hannah (Michelle Monaghan). But she’s trapped in the execrable Made of Honor, which insists that she behave nearly as inanely as her two suitors. It appears they all deserve each other.


Hannah first pops up in Made of Honor as an ostensibly brainy fine arts major, mistaken by an intruder for her roommate as she slumbers in her bed (with sleep mask). He is Tom, who arrives in a Bill Clinton mask, brandishing a cigar because he’s such a hilarious coot, but is soon revealed to be Patrick Dempsey in too much face putty (while this might be designed to make him look college-agey, the effect is mostly distracting: it’s McDreamy’s voice, but who is that scarily botoxed monster?). Tom is immediately undone when Hannah fights him off by spraying Calvin Klein’s Eternity in his eyes. As must happen in such situations, they offer mutual apologies and start to chat, at times achieving a clever-seeming hyperspeed: he notes she looks like a dog, she notes his nose is bent. Alas, it’s not long before you realize these two-who-are-destined-to-wed are not clever at all, only overwritten.


Following a brief appearance by the roommate (drunk and puking in a sack), the film skips ahead a decade, when Tom is wealthy because he’s invented the coffee sleeve and Hannah pops up again with her head bobbing before the painting of a man’s crotch. This shot takes Tom’s point of view, and in fact she’s restoring a painting of a martyr at the Met. She explains cheerily that Tom has arrived just in time, as “I’ve just finished working on his balls.” Worse, she and Tom have forged a best-friendship, which means she observes his womanizing, secretly and impossibly loving him from a distance, even as he shares his “rules” regarding women (he won’t have sex with one two nights in a row; he spends his Sundays with Hannah, sipping lattes and laughing adorably). When he’s not with Hannah or a leggy blond, he’s with his boys, a squad of basketball- and card-playing comrades who admire his extreme wealth and disdain for girls.


The apparent model for Tom’s dim, narcissistic, manipulative, and self-pitying behavior is his father, Thomas Sr. (Sydney Pollack), introduced as he’s embarking on his sixth marriage—to the much younger, leggy and blond Christie (Kelly Carlson) whose attorney is still negotiating a pre-nup just minutes before the ceremony and who openly solicits Tom at the reception. Though Tom complains about his dad’s inability to commit (reportedly, Tom’s mother is the only woman he ever loved, but he treated her badly and so he lost her), he’s not a bit concerned that he’s a chip off the old block: “I’m happy if you’re happy,” Tom tells his father. Until, of course, their pattern is at risk.


This crisis is initiated by Hannah’s absence (“What will I do with my Sundays?” he frets). Sent to Scotland by the museum, she returns with a fiancé, Colin (Kevin McKidd). A lumpy duke whose assumptions regarding women are at least as Neanderthal as Tom’s, he has swept the ragingly clueless Hannah off her feet and means to have her attend to his every need in a Scottish palace. Predictably horrified, Tom agrees to be Hannah’s maid of honor, with plans to sabotage the wedding and pledge his own troth. He has the support of his boys, including the happily married Felix (Kadeem Hardison, whose presence here suggests his career is in more dire straits than you imagined), and so sets about a series of steps to demonstrate his sensitivity, intelligence, and eventually, machismo.


These steps involve taking notes on a DVD (12 Steps Down the Aisle by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, which is not a very funny joke), shopping for china patterns and lingerie, discussing the vows with Reverend Foote (James Sikking) (Colin conveniently called back to Scotland in order to make location arrangements), and yes, planning the shower. These steps occasion a pile-on of penis jokes, sex-toy jokes (Hannah’s grandmother [Selma Stern] is reduced to a two-part joke, her age connoted by perpetual gaping and belief that a set of glow-in-the-dark “thunder beads” is a necklace that she wears for the film’s duration), and boy-bonding/phobic jokes.


These take shape on the basketball court and in the locker room, where Colin, invited along for a couple of hours, proves to be the wholly threatening manlier man (see the boys staring wide-eyed as Colin discovers the slam dunk and then again when he reveals himself in the shower). Even more disappointing, Tom leaves the boys behind and treks to Scotland with his bevy of bridesmaids (one being a vengeful one-night ex). On his own turf, Colin is even more ferociously bland, while the yank-minded film makes fun of all things Scottish, from haggis and whiskey to kilts and thick accents. Colin, it turns out, not only kills deer for food, but also throws trees for sport.


None of this material is surprising or entertaining, which makes it one more indication of the sorry state of the romantic comedy. Much as Made of Honor pretends to this weekend’s chick-flicky counter-programming, it is more decidedly dick-focused than Iron Man. In this it is falling in line with other examples of the genre, anxiously aspiring to the new measure of success established by Judd Apatow’s factory. But even if this map of current humor is clear, it remains a mystery how thunder beads became a repeatable punch-line.

Rating:

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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