Bridesmaids
In this publicity image released by Universal Pictures, from left, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig are shown in a scene from "Bridesmaids." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Suzanne Hanover)

Prepare yourself to hear this comparison often: “Bridesmaids” is like a female version of “The Hangover.”

But don’t ever expect those words, or any variation of them, to roll off my tongue. Not only is that observation short-sighted and lazy, it is also entirely off base.

It’s inevitable that a number of people will link “Bridesmaids” and “The Hangover” together because they both center around pre-wedding festivities, but that’s about the only thing these two films have in common.

The far superior “The Hangover,” which takes place in Las Vegas, follows a group of rambunctious guys who attempt to put the pieces together after waking up in a hotel room with no knowledge of what happened the night before. While it’s true the three men bond and grow closer as the movie chugs along, the crude, vulgar and obscene bachelor party comedy isn’t overly concerned with being saccharine.

And that is where “Bridesmaids” differs the most. Sure, director Paul Feig (“Unaccompanied Minors”) doesn’t shy away from utilizing a similar style of shocking humor, but he also takes a cue from Judd Apatow and supplies his film with sincere sentimentality. (That makes perfect sense seeing as Apatow, who collaborated with Feig on the TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” serves as one of the movie’s producers.)

But the soft-heartedness that is on display in “Bridesmaids” also provides the film with one of its main weaknesses — the main character, Annie (“Saturday Night Live” star Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the script with Annie Mumolo), is so insecure and self-destructive that it’s practically impossible to feel sorry for her as she continues to dig herself into an even deeper hole. And at this point, the hole is so deep her shovel will soon be hitting the Great Wall of China.

The 30-something Annie has lost her Milwaukee bakery, she’s single and, for some unknown reason, she has decided to share an apartment with a pair of painfully annoying British siblings (Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson). And the only man in her life is a rich and arrogant jerk (Jon Hamm) who only calls her when he wants a loveless, late-night rendezvous. 

But even with the walls caving in, the one person Annie can always count on is her best friend Lillian (Wiig’s real-life chum and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Maya Rudolph). That all changes, however, when Lillian informs Annie that she is engaged to be married and asks her to be her maid of honor.

Because of her new fiancé, Lillian has been spending more and more of her days in Chicago, which, of course, means less time for Annie. And their friendship is strained to an even greater degree when Helen, (Rose Byrne), a Windy City socialite who is also in the wedding party, enters the picture and hijacks the planning duties for Lillian’s big day.

It all depends on your sense of humor, but for me, the whole awkward game of one-upmanship between Annie and Helen is what prevents “Bridesmaids” from being exceptionally memorable. Uneasy situations can definitely be a great source of comedy, but that is not the case with Annie and Helen’s over-the-top spats. Instead of being entertaining, they are just plain uncomfortable.   

And the film is further hindered by Feig’s sporadic inability to know when to let a joke die, especially the food poisoning incident at an upscale bridal store and Annie and Helen’s dueling speeches at Lillian’s engagement party. 

But luckily for us, Wiig’s likable personality and comedic presence help make the film’s deficiencies harder to notice. Wiig’s career has mainly consisted of supporting roles in such movies as “Knocked Up,” “Adventureland” and “MacGruber,” but here she is given the full spotlight and she doesn’t disappoint.

But as humorous as Wiig can be, it’s Melissa McCarthy (TV’s “Mike & Molly” and “Gilmore Girls”) who absolutely steals the show as Megan, Lillian’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. Megan doesn’t always have the best lines, but McCarthy’s go-for-broke plunge into her unfeminine character is so ballsy you can’t help but be entertained. It’s just too bad the other two bridesmaids (Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) are not given more screen time.

Although the gags found in “Bridesmaids” are sharply uneven, the film is at its best when it pokes fun at the everyday situations that come with relationships, married life and planning a wedding. The movie also emits an amusing sense of sweetness whenever Wiig shares the screen with Chris O’Dowd, who plays an Irish-born state trooper that is attracted to Annie.

That last sentence might make “Bridesmaids” sound like a typical romantic comedy, but it really isn’t. It’s more of a comedy first, friendship second, romance third kind of film, which should help calm the nerves of any guy who is dragged to the theater by their better half.

But more importantly, “Bridesmaids” serves as proof that films with a predominantly female cast can actually be funny. We are in dire need of more movies that can effectively showcase the talents of our most gifted comediennes, and even though “Bridesmaids” has its share of imperfections, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

3 stars (out of 5)

Comments can be directed to Adam at adamt@wdtimes.com

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