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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Head Over Heels and The Wedding Planner (review)

No Honeymoon

Head Over Heels. The Wedding Planner. So this is the state of romantic comedy these days: it isn’t romantic and it isn’t funny, unless, perhaps, you’re a 12-year-old girl for whom swooning over totally gorgeous guys is a new thing and totally planning your totally romantic wedding is your hobby. Where are the romantic comedies for grownups — you know, like they used to make ’em? Where is the flirty banter? Where is the sexual tension? Where have all the Cary Grants and Katherine Hepburns gone?

The truly sad thing is, the “creative” — I used the term loosely — forces behind these embarrassing pieces of junk think they’re evoking the Hollywood of old with these instantly forgettable wastes of celluloid. Heels director Mark Waters used “such classic films as The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday as his templates,” according to the film’s press notes, and he thinks Freddie Prinze Jr. is “kind of like Gary Cooper playing Cary Grant.” Planner director Adam Shankman was attracted to its script because it “reminded [him] of old movie classics starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, or Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.”

Dear God.
Rear Bimbo
Have you ever seen monkeys or apes in a zoo throwing feces at one another, or at their human keepers? It’s an insult. It means: “The only thing you are good for is a receptacle for my shit. This is the only attention you will earn from me.” And it has just occurred to me that when a movie resorts to shit jokes, it’s the same kind of insult — it’s the screenwriter and the director saying, “You are so unworthy of my creative efforts that we cannot be bothered to attempt humor above a grade-school level. You are worth nothing but this shit we’re pitching at you.”

Head Over Heels is what passes for an acceptable romantic comedy in the early 21st century, one in which we are forced to listen to the leading man’s explosive defecation and we are forced to watch the leading lady get thrown to the ground and dry humped by an enormous Great Dane. (That’s the meet-cute, by the way: the leading man’s dog attempts to fuck the leading lady.)

I could be wrong, and I’m sure someone will correct me if I am, but I don’t think audiences were ever required to bear any kind of witness to either Cary Grant’s or Gary Cooper’s toilet habits.

Julia Roberts knockoff Monica Potter (Patch Adams, Con Air) — who not only looks like Roberts but has obviously been working on inflecting her voice like Roberts’ as well — is Amanda Pierce, who, for reasons too ridiculous to detail, ends up sharing a fantastically fabulous Manhattan apartment with four models (played by four painfully thin and boringly gorgeous real-life models). They’re predictably shallow and have tons of equally shallow, idiot suitors flocking around them, which is supposed to make them experts on snagging a man so they can “help” Amanda woo and win their neighbor, fashion exec Jim Winston (Freddie Prinze Jr.: Wing Commander, I Know What You Did Last Summer). Jim lives across the street from them, and he’s so incredibly stupid that he never, ever notices the bank of curtainless windows from which five women observe him day and night. What a moron. Jim, they decide — based purely on appearances, of course — is perfect, and Amanda must have him. They even tart her up like a model, since she is obviously way too ordinary-looking for a sophisticated gent like Jim, but Monica — I mean, Amanda — doesn’t need any lessons in that peculiar model method of smiling: Don’t let it reach your eyes: you might get a wrinkle. Keep your face immobile at all times.

And then — because this is not only an insipid and distasteful attempt at comedy but also an awkward and completely unsuspenseful go at a thriller — they see Jim appear to commit a murder. Imagine Rear Window as remade by the Coyote Ugly girls, and bring your barf bag. Did he kill someone? Is Amanda’s Mr. Right actually Mr. Murderer? The Four Ditzy Supermodels and One Pretend-Plain Girl Detective Agency is on the case.

Impossible as it is to imagine, Head Over Heels was not written by a gaggle of giggling pubescent girls at a slumber party but by four men, whose names I hereby inscribe in the Flick Filosopher hall of shame: John J. Strauss, Ed Decter, David Kidd, and Ron Burch. Who but someone eagerly anticipating her first period could possibly find Freddie Prinze Jr. appealing… or menacing? He barely looks old enough to shave. Who but a starstruck junior high student would script a line in which Prinze wonders, even though it’s “not a guy thing to say,” whether he and Amanda shouldn’t wait a while before having sex? Who else would write the line: “He totally kissed me”? Isn’t it all too dreamy? Isn’t it just unbearably romantic?

Except for the shit. That’s pretty damn unromantic. I don’t want to see someone I’m actually sleeping with on the toilet. I certainly do not need that from my escapist fantasy. Ugh.

My Best Client’s Wedding
The best thing I can say about The Wedding Planner is that it isn’t as dreadful as Head Over Heels. But that’s not really saying much.

Jennifer Lopez (The Cell, Out of Sight) is apparently never going to get to play a character with an Hispanic name. Here she is Mary Fiore, who arranges fairy-tale weddings with military precision but can only be a success in her chosen career because she is anal, which of course is a manifestation of her fear of commitment… or something. She works at a hotshot wedding-planning agency, which is housed in pink offices and staffed by a bunch of silly girls and some gay guys. It’s like Barbie’s law firm: Barbie, Barbie, Barbie & Ken(TM) (accessories not included). It’s like, so totally adorable and lets you be, like, a career gal without having to work with icky boys. Even the clients are mostly just brides-to-be, since grooms-to-be don’t care about any of this girly stuff.

Mary snags her biggest client yet, Internet tycooness Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson: I Know What You Did Last Summer) — planning her disgustingly expensive bash is going to win Mary the partnership she has always wanted. But as bad luck would have it, the really cute doctor, Steve Edison (Matthew McConaughey: U-571, EDTV), that Mary just met and fell hard for turns out to be Fran’s intended. Doncha hate when that happens?

Absurdity piles upon absurdity in this preposterous excuse for a comedy. How often can one gal be rescued from Certain Death by one guy before she gets the hint that he is simply the man for her? How often will the opportunity to rectify confusion with a single, simple word pass by in order to keep the shamefully contrived plot moving? How high can coincidences be stacked before they collapse under their own weight? How long can the story withhold vital information about its characters?

This painfully unfunny, unsexy, unromantic movie is like A Wedding Story: The Motion Picture — it’s wedding porn populated not by people but by masses of idiosyncrasies, characters seemingly manufactured by a screenplay-creation computer program: Rule 2, Pile On The Quirks For Unforgettable Characters. Her Scrabble fetish, his M&M preferences: Aren’t they adorable? Aren’t they adorable together?

Well, no, they aren’t. The chemistry between Lopez and McConaughey is nonexistent, as is any sense of wit or wistfulness in perhaps the most wistful of romantic situations: having bad timing with someone who’d be perfect for you, if only they weren’t taken. Is there any heartache in The Wedding Planner? Nope. Instead, there are only hijinks.

Head Over Heels
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers
rated PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor and language
official site | IMDB

The Wedding Planning
viewed at a public multiplex screening
rated PG-13 for language and some sexual humor
official site | IMDB



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