Runaway Bride (1999)

reviewed by
Steve Rhodes

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 1999 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****):  ***

Julia Roberts, America's favorite pretty woman, is back again with her second romantic comedy of the summer, RUNAWAY BRIDE.

Teaming Roberts up again with Richard Gere and director Garry Marshall, this movie, as everyone associated with it carefully points out, is not a sequel to PRETTY WOMAN, the hit movie that started this decade. But who cares? Gere and Roberts evidence enough genuine chemistry on the screen to fill a dozen run-of-the-mill romances.

The plot this time concerns one Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), a small-town hardware store owner, who is described as "always a bride but never a bridesmaid." Maggie has vow phobia that causes her to flee from the wedding ceremony before it comes time to say, "I do." She's developed quite a negative reputation for all of the fiancÚs that she has left stranded. As the newspaper puts it, "Hardware honey goes nuts and bolts."

Upon hearing about her story, USA Today columnist Ike Graham (Gere) prints an article about her that gets some of the key facts wrong -- she's only abandoned 3 grooms, not 6 -- and gets fired for his journalistic sins. Ike leaves the Big Apple for Maggie's hometown of Hale to get the lowdown on her. When he arrives, she's in the final boarding stages of tying the knot with the local high school coach (Christopher Meloni). Grinning from ear to ear, Ike throws himself heart and soul into becoming bosom buddies with all of Maggie's friends and relatives so that he can learn the truth about her.

The script by Sara Parriott, Josann McGibbon and Audrey Wells is filled with some nice one liners and several delightfully quirky characters. As Peggy Fleming -- no, not that Peggy Fleming -- the owner of the "Curl Up and Dye" beauty salon, Joan Cusack plays Maggie's long-time best buddy and an unabashed weird character.

None however are more unusual than Maggie herself, whom we first see in a satin wedding dress, riding at full gallop on a horse as she runs away from a would-be husband. The movie is filled with such well-constructed sight gags. Another has Maggie dragging the trainbearer behind her as she dashes out of the church. The poor little boy holds on for dear life.

Roberts, with her glamorous looks, is so confident that she's willing to look ugly in the service of comedy. Pulling out her signature luscious lips, she does an old "duckbill platypus" joke as a favor to Peggy. The surprise of the casting is that as lovely as Roberts is, Gere, with his thick gray, wavy hair, manages to outshine her. In fact, it is Gere, not Roberts, who steals most of their scenes. With a relaxed savoir-faire, Gere gives himself a decided Cary Grant air.

Ike pokes around, trying to find out if Maggie will actually go through with proposed wedding number four. "Don't think they'll call it off, do you?" he asks Maggie's father, Walter (Paul Dooley). "Wedding cake freezes, this we know," Walter replies. Maggie is not only the town joke, but also her family's. "Maggie may not be Hale's longest running joke, but she certainly is the fastest," her father claims.

Ike has his own battle scars. A divorced man, he proudly proclaims, "I'm a work in progress." Still, he seems as sure of himself as Maggie is unsure of herself. Combatants at first, their relationship changes over the course of the good-spirited film, much to the delight of the audience. The laughs tend to come batched together, causing viewers to miss some delicious little zingers. Oh well, you can catch them all when you rent it later.

As we get down to the homestretch, the question is, will she or won't she walk out on her upcoming wedding? As she stands in her wedding dress in front of a fan, she tries to cool herself down so that she will not panic and abort the ceremony. The one thing in which the audience feels confident is that, whatever she chooses, the results will be charming and humorous. They will not be disappointed.

RUNAWAY BRIDE runs 1:55. It is rated PG for language and some suggestive dialogue and would be fine for kids around 8 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 10, loved the movie and gave it ***. He thought it was a little repetitious but had some good laughs that cracked him up.

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