Runaway Bride (1999)

reviewed by
Greg King

RUNAWAY BRIDE (PG). (Paramount/Touchstone/Buena Vista International) Director: Garry Marshall Stars: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Christopher Meloni, Paul Dooley, Jean Schertler, Jane Morris, Laurie Metcalf (uncredited), Larry Miller (uncredited) Running time: 116 minutes.

The chemistry between Richard Gere and Julia Roberts propelled Pretty Woman, a contemporary reworking of the Pygmalion story, to the top of the box office in 1990. The pair are reunited with director Garry Marshall for the belated follow up, Runaway Bride, a film so light weight that it is in danger of floating away. However, the obvious charisma and magic between the pair again works a treat, and lifts the formulaic material. Runaway Bride delivers laughs and charm in equal measure, and provides more than enough to satisfy audiences. This delightfully charming if improbable romantic comedy will be another runaway hit at the box office.

Ike Graham (Gere) is a New York columnist with a cynical and misogynist outlook that earns him the ire of his readers. Suffering from writer's block with the deadline for his column only hours away, he nurses his sorrows in a neighbourhood bar. There he hears the story of a serial runaway bride who has a habit of leaving her potential husbands at the altar. Graham writes the story without checking the facts, and is promptly fired. Still intrigued by the story he heads off to picturesque Hale, in upstate Maryland, hoping to gain vindication.

Maggie (Roberts) is deep in preparation for her fourth wedding attempt. This time her fiancÚ is the town's football coach (Christopher Meloni). Graham decides to follow Maggie around, hoping to understand her fear of marriage. The prickly animosity between the mismatched pair slowly melts and gives way to romance as they realise they have more in common than they care to admit. The plot from this point is fairly trite and predictable.

There is more of a slap stick sensibility to this film, and the two stars throw themselves into their roles with an obvious enthusiasm and relish. The eccentric townsfolk are treated as little more than stereotypes - the alcoholic father (Paul Dooley), the foul mouthed octogenarian (Jean Schertler), and the man hungry widow (an uncredited Laurie Metcalf) - although the dependable Joan Cusack makes the most of her role as Peggy, Maggie's understanding best friend. Chicago Hope star Hector Elizondo, who has appeared in all ten of Marshall's previous films, gets some of the best lines, which he delivers in superbly droll fashion.

Marshall's direction is uninspired, but the chemistry between the two stars makes this innocuous souffle worth watching. This is the sort of thing that Roberts does best. My Best Friend's Wedding, Notting Hill, and now Runaway Bride have re-established her as the queen of Hollywood romantic comedies.

greg king

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