Saturday 24 August 2019

Movie Review: Runaway Bride (1999)

A middling romantic comedy, Runaway Bride reteams Julia Robert and Richard Gere with surprisingly lacklustre results.

Without any fact checking, New York newspaper columnist Homer "Ike" Graham (Gere) writes a dismissive piece about a woman called Maggie Carpenter who has apparently left a succession of men stranded at the altar. He is fired for sloppy reporting, but a magazine editor offers him a chance to pursue the real story.

Ike travels to the quaint small town of Hale, Maryland, and finds Maggie (Roberts) engaged to be married to football coach Bob Kelly (Christopher Meloni), her fourth attempt to get hitched. Her three previous engagements did indeed end with her fleeing the wedding ceremony. As a result of her romantic misadventures, all caught on video, Maggie is a local punchline, with her family joking about her exploits at every opportunity. After initially resenting Ike's intrusion into her life, a romance blossoms between them, much to Bob's disappointment.

After the success of 1990's Pretty Woman, reconnecting Julia Roberts with Richard Gere in another Garry Marshall-directed romantic comedy must have been considered a fail safe idea. But while the stars provide the necessary energy for Runaway Bride, the sparks just don't fly as may have been expected. The story is competent and strives for some level of originality within the confines of the genre, but overall the film just ambles along in safe and predictable territory.

The blame for the missing fireworks needs to be shared. Roberts marginally overacts her way through the film, never settling down into any kind of comfort zone as a real person. Gere oscillates awkwardly between cavalier newspaperman and dreamy romantic. The script by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott lacks wit and cutting edge, while Marshall allows the film to bloat to an unnecessary 116 minutes.

The secondary cast members do their best to enliven proceedings. Meloni as Maggie's latest experiment in love, using trite football coaching tactics to help her over the line, is joined by Joan Cusack as Maggie's grounded best friend and Paul Dooley as her frequently inebriated dad. Rita Wilson and H├ęctor Elizondo lend further depth and talent.

Runaway Bride tries to reach for some weightier conversations about knowing yourself before committing to couplehood, but any profound statements are well beyond the capabilities of all involved. This bride is just content to gallop across nondescript fields.

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