Runaway Bride (1999) — Pretty woman running down the street

“SHAZAAM! I think I’m in Mayberry.”

Justin’s rating: Is the wedding march “Dum dum da dum” or “Dumb dumb da dumb”?

Justin’s review: It was a Saturday night. I was stretched out on our couch (nickname: McComfy), my wife tapping away diligently at a computer killing imaginary yetis, when I tossed this over my shoulder:

“Babe? I was wondering if we could watch Runaway Bride tonight. See, we have this theme week at Mutant Reviewers coming up where the guys are reviewing girly movies, and vice-versa, and Sue picked this one for me to do. I’m not sure if she did to torture or convert me — perhaps both — but I’d appreciate a little moral support if I have to do this. Interested?”

Now, that’s what I would’ve said, but I only got so far as “watch Runaway Bride” when my own bride managed to bend space and time to instantaneously cross the room and latch herself around my neck, her eyes streaming tears of happiness onto my neck as she squealed that she hoped this day would come, but she never thought it would. I found breathing became a bit harder for me to do, and the paramedics needed to use the Jaws of Life to free me of her clutches.

So, apparently, this is somewhat of a popular chick flick. I suppose I can acknowledge why: It has Julia Roberts (which always helps), Richard Gere (the very model of a modern major general), the Julia + Richard match-up for the second time after Pretty Woman, and an absolute discount warehouse full of wedding stuff. I think someone just took a copy of a 55-pound issue of Getting Hitched magazine and photoshopped some pictures of famous actors in to make this film.

Runaway Bride merges onto the highway of typical romance plots for its setup. Reporter Ike (Gere) does an article on an infamous woman named Maggie (Roberts) who apparently gets so freaked out on her wedding days that she left her husbands-to-be at the altar and ran for the hills. Three times. And now she’s engaged to number four, with the big day around the corner. Ike gets her story all wrong, Maggie gets him fired, and Ike uses his new-found free time to relocate to her small Midwestern burg to make friends and get the full scoop for a comeback story.

This is, of course, where Romantic Clichés Highway (RC-12) takes us past familiar sights, as one particular guy and one particular girl who seem to be opposites start to fall for each other and then there’s some sort of kiss and grand romantic gesture and Hallmark goes crazy with a new line of Julia Roberts Valentine’s Day cards where you pull down on her gi-normous mouth and the card opens to a picture of Richard Gere holding flowers and reminding your woman that she could’ve done so much better than measly little you.

I can, and most certainly will, pick away at this film for its trite, happy-go-lucky nonsense, but I can’t in good conscience say that it’s a lousy or stupid film. From a guy’s perspective, while I found my brain saving my mind by zoning my vision and hearing to sort of a gray noise during any of the lovey-dovey stuff, there’s a lot of comedy that pulled me back. The best sorts of romantic comedies are the ones which have the two lovebirds as opposing, battling forces (see: The Cutting Edge) for a majority of the movie, because isn’t that what relationships are really like, anyway? Gere and Roberts are backed up by a solid cast of talented (if not uproarious) secondaries — Joan Cusack and Hector Elizondo as the best friends yank some of the scenes completely over to them and don’t let them go.

Still… other than the idea of a woman who’s so screwed up about marriage yet keeps putting herself through it, Runaway Bride paints by the numbers. Cliché #1: our love interest woman is a closet artist/sculpter (Maggie makes artistic lamps out of hardware items). Cliché #2: the prerequisite current love interest who must be ditched for the real lovin’ to begin. Cliché #3: storybook perfect dates that include poetry, tire swings and roaring fires. Cliché #4: an idyllic town where everyone seems to know each other and is so extremely friendly that it makes you suspect a Prozac factory is somewhere upriver. Cliché #5: the guy confronts the girl with some pseudo-deep revelation about herself, which gives her pause; then the girl turns around and does the exact same thing to the guy. Aw. They know each other. Swell.

Ehhh… I’m not going to fine you movie people for trespassing in my life. Get out of here, you lovable scamps, and don’t let me catch you digging in my subconscious again!

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