Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Runaway Bride

By Sarah Hepola

AUGUST 2, 1999: 

D: Garry Marshall; with Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Paul Dooley, Laurie Metcalf. (PG, 112 min.)

More of concern than the runaway bride here is the runaway script: Too bad everyone was banking so heavily on Gere and Roberts' "chemistry" that they didn't bother to write an interesting, or for that matter acceptable, romance. Too bad their characters are comprised of nothing but the most hackneyed clichˇs and that it apparently never occurred to anyone to add even sketches of believable character development. I mean, what does it say about a film when its seasoned comic team strikes the biggest yuks with a randy granny talking about tight butts and the one-eyed snake? Director Garry Marshall hasn't hit even a base hit in a while, and this tired claptrap may explain why, but let's face it: The power teaming of his Pretty Woman co-stars is sure to at least trot a stretch or two with an audience that yearns for its old-shoe familiarity, its slow and easy punchlines, its bloodless and sexless sentimentality, and -- of course -- its sizzling stars. Gere plays Ike Graham, a snarky reporter fired from his cush gig at USA Today after publishing a flip, venomous column (whose source is dripping with bourbon and half-truths) about Maryland's Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), a woman fabled to have left a succession of jilted fiancˇs in her wake. Being a confirmed old misogynist, Ike travels to Maggie's small hometown to get the real scoop on her -- this time for the cover of GQ -- and prove that his portrayal of her as a bloodsucking harpy was really spot on. Being "characters," this woman-hater and man-eater engage in vaguely witty verbal sparring, but -- here's a spoiler -- eventually warm to each other's charms, even though Maggie is raring to tie the knot with good-natured simpleton Coach Bob. Marshall places gags, jabs, twists, trysts, and bittersweet reunions in all the right spots, injecting the last reel with even the scent of tension, but it's never enough to transcend the other tired films of its genre. The only thing keeping this film palatable is the performances of its stars. I've never much cared for Gere, but at least he's believable as a smart-ass, know-it-all cad. Joan Cusack shines in yet another underwritten throwaway role as Maggie's patient, underappreciated friend. And Roberts proves exactly why she's currently the highest-paid actress in Tinseltown (netting $17 million for this picture). But no matter how sunny and exuberant her smile, how adorable the twitch of her nose, how loud and slippery her laugh -- those slender shoulders simply cannot carry this clunker. I'm sure people will be tripping over themselves to see this anyway. But to quote from Monty Python upon being bombarded by dead barnyard animals, here's a little piece of advice for those who enjoy a little respect and intelligence in their romantic comedy: Run away! Run away!

2 Stars

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