More than any other genre, the romantic comedy relies on the chemistry of its stars for success. No matter how original the concept, smart the script, or accomplished the direction, if we don't like the leads or care about their budding attraction, the film just won't work. '27 Dresses' is just such a movie, one with a cute-enough story idea and a pair of appealing leads, but one that simply doesn't gel. We have little interest in seeing such bland characters get together, much less in spending two hours with them.
Katherine Heigl stars as Jane Nichols, a romantic, completely selfless woman (i.e., a doormat) who has been a bridesmaid in no less than twenty-seven weddings. Unfortunately, after she falls for her arrogant boss George (Edward Burns), who then woos her younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman, Jane's own happy ending seems to be nowhere in sight. Eventually, George and Tess announcement their engagement, and guess who gets to plan the wedding? Meanwhile, handsome local newspaper reporter Kevin Doyle (James Marsden) who's been assigned the wedding beat, becomes intrigued by Jane and tries to win her affections.
It will be no surprise to anyone where all of this is going. There is zero uncertainty that Kevin will eventually warm the hardened heart of Jane. It's not a question of when, but how, which is the backbone of all romantic comedies. Unfortunately -- and despite the photogenic good looks of both Heigl and Marsden -- we just never become invested in Jane's plight because she's such an unappealing, whiny character, and therefore Kevin becomes a dolt for even trying to win over such a sad sack of a girl. There's a fine line between adorably cynical and simply insufferable, and Jane tramples all over it.
Such criticism may sound mean, but the filmmakers do Jane (and Heigl) no favors by giving her such a shaky character to try and sell us on. We've all seen countless romantic comedies where the lead has been burned so many times before that she/he is now afraid to embrace the opportunity to love. But screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna ( 'The Devil Wears Prada' ) never clearly delineates why Jane is so despondent in the first place. Sure, she's worn 27 dresses to 27 weddings, but she's practically working in the wedding industry, for chrissakes, so gimme a break. And she's not even 30 years-old yet (at least according to the script), so it's not like she's some spinster whose potential suitors are legitimately limited. Jane's reluctance to give in to the clearly handsome and available Kevin (he comes across as quite a catch) thus seems merely like a perfunctory rewuirement of the script, rather than rooted in a plausible reality. It's flimsy screenwriting.
Perhaps whats most disappointing about '27 Dresses' is that it is directed by a woman, Anne Fletcher ('Step Up'), who brings little genuine insight to the material. I would have expected such a bland, TV movie-feel had this been directed by some hack condescending to the audience, but I expected more flair and personality considering the distaff behind the camera. '27 Dresses' is just another conventional rom-com that could have been directed by anybody. Despite Heigl's eagerness (she's charming even when forced to say the stupidest lines) she just can't save a '27 Dresses.' This is a boring, formulaic entry in the genre, and one that even diehard chick-flick lovers will find largely unmemorable.
Fox offers a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode for '27 Dresses' (at 2.40:1). The film has the typically bright and bubbly look of a romantic comedy, but this one doesn't quite deliver the goods. The transfer looks fine, but not terrific.
Good stuff includes a pristine source, excellent blacks and a nice, sharp sheen. Colors left me underwhelmed, however. They can be vibrant (more so during night scenes than daylight, ironically), but they never excel the way the should. For a romantic comedy, I expect something really eye-popping, and '27 Dresses' is a tab drab. Fleshtones are also not entirely realistic, leaving even as attractive an actress as Katherine Heigl looking artificial. Contrast is also a bit wonky, with mid-range too bright (leaving the image washed-out at times) and also on the hot side. Certainly, '27 Dresses' still looks perfectly fine and quite watchable, but it's not top-tier stuff.
'27 Dresses' gets Fox's typical DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit) treatment, but the film's sound design is generally lackluster. I know this is a romantic comedy, but does that mean its soundtrack has to be this boring? (Other audio options on the disc include a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track at 192kbps, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean.)
Surround use is meager at best. Discrete effects are few and far between, and even the score (by Randy Edelmen) and use of pop songs is weakly rendered. This is largely a front-heavy affair, and even on that front there's not much to get excited about. Fidelity is polished, with healthy dynamic range and low bass that's adequate for the material. Dialogue sounds clean and well-balanced. On the bottom line, '27 Dresses' does what it needs to, but nothing more.
The collection of supplements for '27 Dresses' is a largely a promotional package that continues the general mediocrity of this Blu-ray release. Don't expect much depth here (heck, there isn't even an audio commentary). Fox does present all of the extras in 1080 HD, and there are English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean subtitle options.
'27 Dresses' is a formulaic romantic comedy that offers nothing you haven't seen before. That might have been fine had the leads generated great chemistry, but even the presence of Katherine Heigl can't elevate the rote script. This Blu-ray is likewise middle-of-the-road, with fine video and audio, but nothing more. The supplements are also largely promotional. '27 Dresses' makes for a fine Saturday night date rental, but I'd be hard-pressed to recommend a purchase.