Review: Heigl's the highlight of “27 Dresses”

The age-old wedding charm calls for “something old, some new, something borrowed, and something blue.” For “27 Dresses” the formula brings a mixed blessing.

Almost every element in this tale of a New York mensch who is “always a bridesmaid but never a bride” qualifies as old, if not threadbare.

Borrowed? No prob. Nary an original idea. “27” trades on derivatives like a Wall Street broker.

And our heroine, unattached and struggling through unrequited affection, proves “blue” for a good part of the story, sporting a more or less eloquent funk.

And that’s the new — Katherine Heigl, who brings the heart and invigoration to this otherwise common story.

Heigl takes a ghetto of impoverished clichés, singularly pulls them up by their bootstraps, and employs them with vibrancy.

In the process she rescues her character, Jane — way too plain and unimaginative who carries a burdensome crush on the CEO (Edward Burns) to whom she is an assistant. (He of course is clueless as to her affection).

Heigl also props up her supporting character—the attractive, selfish sister Tess (Malin Akerman), who predictably steals the bosses’ heart.

None of this baggage seems to weigh down Heigl in the least, who still early in her career proves much fuller of life than of herself. She brings shape and nuance to every hackneyed bit and with the help of costar James Marsden, insists on making this movie fun.

Fresh from a relatively successful “Knocked Up,” Heigl possesses the endearing qualities of yesteryear’s girl-next-door, cut from the Helen Hunt cloth. As the attractive, but not too pretty, not too sure of herself, genuine to a fault character, her genuineness enlivens the commonplace.

The movie’s title comes from Jane’s varied collection of bridesmaid dresses, reflecting various themes and cultures from the weddings in which she’s played a part, spanning from western outfits to kimonos.

In a moment of trust and candor, Jane shares her wardrobe with Kevin (James Marsden), a society page reporter, who is supposedly working on piece on Jane’s sister. She models each gown, as he casually snaps pictures with a phone camera. By showing what essentially constitutes a history of consolation prizes, evidencing the rather pitiful state of her love life, she unwittingly provides him with the material for the feature piece that he hopes will advance his career.

The story’s a huge success, she comes off as a spectacle, and the young reporter regrets his deceit even before his article hits print.

Heigl and Marsden’s chemistry manages to put a shine on another luster-worn theme: the desperate single who can’t recognize a good thing even when it’s right on her doorstep.

That “27 Dresses” constructs itself out of interlocking boilerplates is nothing new. That it transcends what anybody, including the studio, should expect from its basic ingredients stands as noteworthy.

By no measure will this be a memorable film, but in relief against a slate of dour, reflective offerings in the dark months of the year, it's okay to laugh at Kevin and Jane, a couple of city slickers getting drunk in a rural bar and loudly blowing the lyrics to “Bennie and the Jets.”

Grade: C+

Lester Gray reviews movies for Examiner.com. Read all of Examiner's movie reviewers.

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