“Bridesmaids” may have achieved a first: the graceful gross-out scene.
It happens when a bride-to-be played by Maya Rudolph is stricken with a severe case of food poisoning while trying on an elaborate, expensive wedding dress at a bridal boutique.
Three of her prospective bridesmaids -- all having dined at the same restaurant for lunch -- are also suffering from severe gastrointestinal distress and have already claimed the only available bathroom.
Rudolph dashes out of the store, intent on finding a restroom in a nearby restaurant or shop. Halfway across the street, with traffic rushing by, time runs out. With all the elegance of a prima ballerina expiring in the final scene of “Swan Lake,” she gracefully sinks to a squatting position on the pavement, her puffy skirt decorously enveloping and hiding her. Only her facial expression, one of intense mortification, betrays that nature is taking its inevitable course.
That tasteful toilet-humor scene, more than any other in the movie, shows what happens when the guy-humor sensibility of producer Judd Apatow and his regular crew, including director Paul Feig (TV’s “Freaks and Geeks”), is filtered through a female lens, as it is in “Bridesmaids” thanks to co-writer and star Kristen Wiig.
The on-street poop stop comes as a topper and counterpoint to a familiar but still funny gross-out scene that precedes it. In that one, the three afflicted bridesmaids crowd into a single bathroom -- two are sharing a toilet and a third is perched on the sink -- and retch and defecate with the enthusiasm of Jeff Daniels in the granddaddy of low-brow, raunchy comedies, “Dumb & Dumber.”
Apatow and his gang have been responsible in recent years for some of the highest-grossing and amusingly grossest comedies, including “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” Most of these movies were, at heart, about men stuck in prolonged adolescence. (In “Superbad,” the heroes actually were teenagers.) In these films, sex and bodily functions were a never-ending source of humor.
“Bridesmaids” gives those movies a chick-flick twist that will have viewers of both sexes in stitches as it amiably lurches from one test-the-limits comic set piece to the next.
Wiig, who in recent seasons has often almost single-handedly carried TV’s “Saturday Night Live,” gets her first chance to play the lead here. She’s Annie, a sad-sack thirtysomething in Milwaukee whose life is on a downward swing. The cake shop she opened at the start of the recession has gone out of business, her boyfriend has dumped her and, now, her longtime best friend, Lillian (Rudolph), is getting married and moving to Chicago.
The movie’s plot follows Annie’s adventures with Lillian and four bridesmaids -- Annie is the maid of honor–leading up to Lillian’s wedding day. As the women gather for an engagement party, a shower, a pre-wedding trip to Las Vegas and various other activities, rivalries and insecurities emerge. In particular, Annie takes an instant and intense dislike to bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne), whom she views as a spoiled rich bitch who wants to supplant her as Lillian’s best friend.
Wiig is a gifted physical comedian, long and loose-limbed and with an elastic face that’s especially good at registering the droop of disappointment and regret. The movie gives her plenty of room to flex, literally, from an athletic opening sex scene in bed with an arrogant cad (a funny Jon Hamm) to a drunken temper tantrum on a plane.
Supporting players, notably Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy (TV’s “Mike and Molly”) and Chris O’Dowd (British TV’s “The IT Crowd”), also shine. As she did in “Away We Go,” Rudolph demonstrates that she can she bring real emotional depth to even the silliest scene. McCarthy, doing a sly take on Rosie O’Donnell, portrays an over-enthusiastic, seemingly sexually ambiguous bridesmaid. And O’Dowd, an Irish comic actor, is terrifically appealing as a nice guy, highway patrolman who’d like to give Annie more than just tickets.
One doesn’t want to over praise “Bridesmaids.” The movie won’t change your life or grab a fistful of Oscar nominations come next winter. But it will make you laugh, hard and often, and it proves that sometimes girls just want to have fun.