The 28-year-old Emmy-winning starlet caught her big break starring in Knocked Up last summer, and now she’s got the lead role in a more female-oriented comedy called 27 Dresses. She plays Jane Nichols, an office assistant who’s hopelessly carrying a torch for her enviro-friendly philanthropist boss George (Edward Burns). She’s also been a bridesmaid in 27 weddings but never been married herself, and when her younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) meets George and the two instantly fall in love and get engaged, that 28th wedding becomes a difficult proposition for Jane.
What jumps out at me about Heigl in this movie is how comfortable she is with looking undignified, and I don’t mean physically, though the movie does give her a good dose of silly outfits and slapstick bits. I mean emotionally undignified – Heigl is quite game for playing the character’s petty jealousy and resentment, and she scores some major laughs when Jane unhappily stuffs her face with pancakes while the couple canoodle at the breakfast table or feigns an enthusiastic “Niiiice!” when Tess tells her about the sex with him. Her comic energy is the best thing here.
Jane’s basically a big old doormat, and she has to be badgered out of it by a guy named Kevin (James Marsden), whom she meets at one of those ceremonies. The trouble – for both their relationship and the DELETE – is that he reports on weddings for a newspaper under a pseudonym, and she doesn’t know his real identity as she swoons over his writing and lovingly collects his clippings. I don’t have space in this review to list all this subplot’s inaccuracies. I will say that while some journalists have fans, wedding reporters generally don’t. They certainly don’t attract groupies, least of all ones who look like Katherine Heigl.
This, however, doesn’t start to drag down the movie until its last third or so. Before that, a fine bunch of actors keep this thing worth watching. Judy Greer steals all her scenes (as per her usual practice) as Jane’s tart best friend – when is this actress going to star in something? At least this movie answers the same question regarding Marsden, who was most famous for portraying Cyclops in the X-Men films before this past year, when he reinvented himself as a song-and-dance man, playing a smooth TV host in Hairspray and a ridiculous Disney prince in Enchanted. He does a fine job filling out this straightforward romantic lead.
Alas, he can’t keep the movie from crashing and burning at the end, an event brought on by the needlessly convoluted plot and the filmmakers’ ill-advised efforts to reclaim Tess. The character spends the first two-thirds of the movie acting like a spoiled, self-centered brat, but then we’re supposed to feel sympathetic toward her after Jane humiliates her at the rehearsal dinner (a scene that isn’t nearly as ugly as it should be). Neither Akerman nor writer Aline Brosh McKenna can pull off a trick this hard, which leaves 27 Dresses as a movie that starts off with promising material and ends up in a disorganized heap on the floor.