“Made of Honor” is a terrible romantic comedy, and heaven knows I don’t go into romantic comedies with high expectations. The best I can usually hope for is a few funny lines, some charming performances, maybe a slight twist on the usual formula. “Made of Honor” fails in each of those categories, and then some. “Made of Honor” is made of failure.
Set in New York (obviously), it’s about an inveterate womanizer named Tom (Patrick Dempsey) whose platonic best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), has just returned from an extended business trip to Scotland with a fiance! His name is Colin (Kevin McKidd) and he is perfect, but while Hannah was gone, Tom realized something: He’s in love with her.
Too late now, you think; she’s marrying somebody else. But Tom does not think the same way you do. Tom is a self-centered a-hole. Strangely, the movie expects us to find him rakishly charming, even though “self-centered a-hole” is clearly the more apt description. When Hannah asks him to be her “maid of honor,” he agrees — only so he can break up the wedding from the inside. Spend more time with her, learn more about Colin, and drive a wedge between them. In the process, he’ll prove he’s a changed man, more responsible, more willing to commit. Oh, yeah, and convince her not to marry the man she loves, too, but who cares about that? The important thing is for Tom to get what Tom wants.
Does the whole scenario sound strangely familiar, like maybe you saw it in a movie called “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” only with the genders reversed? Yes, yes indeed. That film even starred Dermot Mulroney, who scientists believe is the same person as Patrick Dempsey. (They’re both the same person as Dylan McDermott, too, but that’s not relevant here.) It was amusing to see Dempsey and producer Neal Moritz dance around the comparison in Entertainment Weekly recently. Moritz said, “We couldn’t do ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ again, but we could do the reverse of it.” (Translation: “We think reversing the genders makes it a totally different movie, even though it plainly does not.”) And Dempsey resorted to vague actor-speak: “We knew we were going to get that comparison, and we tried to work against that, in a sense. You didn’t want to hit the same beats.” (“Hit the same beats”? Translation: “It’s the same &#@*! movie.”)
The early scenes of Tom and Hannah palling around town are punctuated by grating character-establishing shorthand. Tom has all these “rules” to help him avoid commitment (never sleep with the same woman two nights in a row, never attend a family function, never let a woman into his apartment, etc.), and he and Hannah talk about the rules incessantly. They also talk incessantly about his reluctance to say “I love you,” and about their aren’t-we-such-cute-best-friends habit of choosing one another’s desserts.
What these scenes mostly establish is that neither Tom nor Hannah is recognizable as a real person. He’s independently wealthy for having invented those cardboard sleeves that go around paper coffee cups (i.e., the script was too lazy to give him a job); she’s an art restorer for a museum. His personality consists entirely of his stupid rules and a bunch of screenwriter-contrived personality quirks; her personality consists entirely of … um … of being Tom’s best friend. That’s about it. (The script is by a first-timer named Adam Sztykiel, with rewrites by the team of Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, previously responsible for “Surviving Christmas” and “Josie and the Pussycats.” The director is Paul Weiland, still infamous for “Leonard Part 6.”)
There are three possible ways that the story can play out, and we might be getting into “spoiler” territory here (if a film as predictable as this one can truly be said to have “spoilers”). One option is for Tom to finally confess his love but for Hannah to marry Colin anyway. One is for Tom to keep silent about his love and/or realize Hannah’s not right for him after all. And one is for Tom to finally confess his love and for Hannah to throw her fiance aside and marry Tom instead.
One of those scenarios is clearly a great deal less realistic, plausible, and deserved than the others. Clearly if Tom waited until Hannah’s very wedding day — until she is actually standing at the altar — to finally confess his love for her, it would absolutely serve him right for her to flat-out reject him. Clearly a finale in which Hannah dumps her fiance — the man who’s perfect for her and whom she loves — in favor of flaky, procrastinating, self-absorbed Tom … well, clearly an ending like that would be an outrageously unfair cop-out. We would be angry if a film tried to pass off that ending as the natural, logical conclusion to this story.
If that’s the ending the film uses, I mean. I’m not saying it is, and I’m not saying it isn’t.
Oh, but also: If Hannah were going to switch to Tom on a whim like that, and if the film wanted to make it look like Colin wasn’t right for her anyway, we would not accept “refusing to share his desserts with her” as legitimate evidence of that. I’m just sayin’.
Finally, for a movie targeted exclusively at women, it sure doesn’t treat any of its female characters well. Hannah has no personality, no life apart from Tom, and she bases her decisions exclusively on what Tom wants. Various women throw themselves shamelessly at super-stud Tom, pleased to be nothing more than one-night stands. One of Hannah’s bridesmaids (Busy Philipps) hates Tom except when she gets drunk and jumps his bones. Another one (Emily Nelson) is overweight but determined to squeeze into that size-8 bridesmaid’s dress even if it kills her. Hannah’s grandmother cluelessly wears a sex toy as a fashion accessory. A creepy young woman stalks Tom and writes a blog about him. Tom’s dad (Sydney Pollack, a welcome sight no matter what) is currently on his sixth gold-digging trophy wife. Tom’s friends encourage him to break up Hannah’s wedding, chanting “Steal the bride! Steal the bride!” as they send him off. I don’t like to throw around the word “misogynist,” but this movie feels like it was made by people who hate women. Probably not a good move, considering women will comprise 90 percent of its audience.
No chemistry, no sparks, no laughs. A story that’s recycled, inane, and unbelievable. A preposterously lazy finale. Yep, all the components are there for this to be the worst romantic comedy of the year. Mazel tov!
D- (1 hr., 41 min.; )