May 14 (Bloomberg) -- “Bridesmaids” is being touted as a girly version of “The Hangover,” another raunchy comedy about a group of misfits getting wild and crazy before a friend’s wedding.
But “Bridesmaids,” co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig of “Saturday Night Live,” is more nuanced, more sophisticated and just as funny. Wiig and a cast that includes former SNL colleague Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy manage to elicit empathy along with the laughs.
Wiig is ringleader Annie, a gloomy 30-ish Milwaukeean whose bakery just went out of business. Her love life consists of sex-only sessions with a cad played by Jon Hamm and she turns off customers at the jewelry store where she works with a running doomsday commentary.
When her best friend Lillian (Rudolph) asks her to be the maid of honor at her wedding, things go from bad to disastrous. Annie and the bridesmaids, including frosty rival Helen (Byrne) and corpulent hell-raiser Megan (McCarthy), embark on an adventure that includes a sickening visit to a Brazilian restaurant, a side-splitting airplane ride and a garish bridal shower with a mini-Eiffel Tower and a giant fountain spewing chocolate syrup.
The film is ably directed by Paul Feig, the creator of TV’s cult classic “Freaks and Geeks,” and features standout work by Chris O’Dowd, as a gentle Irish cop who fancies Annie, and the late Jill Clayburgh as her eccentric mom.
“Bridesmaids,” from Universal Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***1/2
‘Everything Must Go’
When funnymen turn serious, the results are sometimes laughable. Remember Woody Allen vainly trying to channel Ingmar Bergman in “Interiors”?
Will Ferrell attempts the tricky transition in “Everything Must Go,” where he plays a down-and-out salesman whose wife leaves him right after he loses his job and dumps all his possessions on the front lawn, which becomes his temporary home.
Ferrell ditches the goofy shtick that him a huge comedy star in films like “Old School,” “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights.” He gives a solemn, gutsy performance as a beer-guzzling Everyman trying to make the best of a desperate situation by paying a local latchkey kid (Christopher Jordan Wallace, son of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.) to help him sell all his junk, including his fishing rod, blender and reclining chair.
Wallace and Rebecca Hall, who plays a pregnant neighbor, are fine in supporting roles. But the movie -- an expansion of a Raymond Carver short story by first-time filmmaker Dan Rush --is a one-note affair that stutters and drags toward its wistful ending.
“Everything Must Go,” from Roadside Attractions, is playing across the U.S. Rating: **1/2
Harper Lee was a one-hit wonder who won the Pulitzer Prize for her debut novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and never published another book.
Her remarkable story is told in “Hey, Boo,” a documentary that chronicles Lee’s small-town Alabama roots, her long struggle to write “Mockingbird” and the making of the classic movie version with Gregory Peck. It also traces her turbulent friendship with childhood neighbor Truman Capote, including the aid and comfort she gave him while he was researching “In Cold Blood.”
Most importantly, the movie explains why “Mockingbird,” a 1961 novel about a Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in the 1930s, has such enduring appeal.
Filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy uses archival footage, clips from the movie and interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw and Lee’s feisty 99-year-old sister, Alice. They help put “Mockingbird” in the context of its time, when segregation was enforced in the Deep South and the civil-rights movement was in its early stages.
Lee, now 85, didn’t talk to Murphy. She withdrew from public life after “Mockingbird” and hasn’t given an in-depth interview since 1964.
“Hey, Boo,” from First Run Features, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: ***
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(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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