Runaway Bride Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

Runaway Bride Logo

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere

I'm here for vindication... in my heart, I know I'm right about you.

Nine years ago, Garry Marshall (director of "The Other Sister"), Julia Roberts ("Notting Hill"), and Richard Gere ("Red Corner") teamed up for the modern Cinderella story "Pretty Woman", which not only made Roberts a star, but also made a very handsome return at the box office and on home video (apparently, this movie is most often quoted by bikers as a favorite). Despite its picturesque portrayal of street prostitution and inconceivably happy ending, the vivacious allure of Gere and Roberts, not to mention the chemistry in abundance between them, made it easy to get carried away by the fairy-tale charm. This time around, the "Pretty Woman" dream-team have reunited for "Runaway Bride". But instead of an enthralling romantic comedy that captures the magic from nine years ago, "Runaway Bride" is a formulaic picture that spends most of its time on autopilot. Despite having a few memorable scenes and an intriguing thematic anchor, the script delivers few surprises as it unfurls. Even more distressing, the film's numerous attempts at emotional manipulation (the 'cute' scenes that make you go 'aaaaawwww...') seem almost choreographed.

I don't write bitter diatribes about women... very often.
Julia Roberts

When the film opens, we see USA Today columnist Ike Graham (Gere) roaming through New York, fervently looking for a story idea for his daily rant column. He finds salvation in a downtown bar, where an inebriated man tells a story about Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), a woman who runs a hardware store in the small town of Hale, Maryland. It seems that Maggie has been to the altar a total of three times, only to run off at the last minute each time, leaving a string of broken hearts. Using the stranger's anecdote as a starting point, Ike then pounds out a vicious diatribe against women, which instantly gains him notoriety.

Journalism lesson number one: Fabricating your stories gets you fired.

Unfortunately, the piece is riddled with inaccuracies (fifteen to be exact), and Maggie sends an angry response to the newspaper, which is read by the editor (Rita Wilson of "That Thing You Do"), who also happens to be Ike's ex-wife. Faced with a possible lawsuit for slander, Ellie has little choice but to fire Ike for his shoddy reporting. In search of vindication, Ike travels to Maggie's hometown to research a follow-up article for GQ magazine-- an article that will document Maggie's next non-marriage to local football coach Bob (Christopher Meloni, seen recently on the HBO series "Oz").

Hey Ike, does your friend have a sister?
Wait for the original... she'll be available in a week.
Richard Gere

For anyone who has seen a romantic comedy before, what follows from this set-up should be no surprise. The romantic leads will initially have an intense dislike for each other. She will confide in her best friend (Joan Cusack of "Arlington Road"), and he will with his best friend (Hector Elizondo). As they continue to spend time with one another, they will share some deep conversations, find some common ground, and soon begin to see each other in a different light. They will fall in love, and share that first blissful kiss during some awkward moment. They will find a brief moment of happiness, which will come to a crashing halt due to extenuating circumstances. And finally, they will look deeply within and find the courage to kiss, make up, and live happily ever after.

I didn't do it on purpose, despite what you may think. And I don't plan to do it again.

The theme that holds "Runaway Bride" together is actually quite interesting. Both Ike and Maggie are people who find it easier to live their lives by adopting the options of others instead of looking within to make their own decisions (this same theme was explored in Wong Kar Wai's "Fallen Angels"). Maggie has a history of putting the needs of others above her own, even to her own detriment (she doesn't even know how she likes her eggs, since she always has 'the same as what he's having'). Ike is very similar, vicariously living his life by writing about the foibles of other people in his column, instead of taking an introspective look at, and dealing with, his own flaws. As these two similar individuals come together, they come to see that their mutual lack of self-understanding is the source of their own respective stagnation. Not bad, huh?

You invited him to the wedding?! Don't you realize that he's writing an article on me?
But you're not running this time, right?

Unfortunately, the means by which this theme is explored in "Runaway Bride" is often clumsy. With its lead characters actions being governed by the plot's machinations, the result is a series of unbelievable situations propelling the story along that have no bearing to what real people would do. Though Gere and Roberts ignite some sparks in some of their scenes together (sadly, not all of them), the behavioral logic that went into getting these characters to that moment is often 'out of whack'. In addition, the supporting characters are also lackluster, providing bits of mildly diverting comic relief, mainly on the basis of their dim-witted antics and 'cuteness'. Unfortunately, director Marshall's overt attempts at being charming end up fizzling, with far too many programmed shots of cute dogs, cute townsfolk, cute kids, and cute old people talking about sex. Enough already.

I hope they don't call it off.
Well, wedding cake freezes... that much we know.

"Runaway Bride" is a film that plays it safe to paint a pretty picture. At its best, it is a passable entry into the romantic comedy genre, though it pales in comparison to the riskier and ultimately more fulfilling ones, such as "Shakespeare in Love" and "My Best Friend's Wedding". At its worst, "Runaway Bride" is a cloying and annoying feel-good movie whose toying with audience emotions ultimately wastes both the talents of its actors and the promise of its premise.

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.


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