Made of Honor

Made of Honor

First, the obvious. Made of Honor is what’s generally known as a “chick flick.” I’m not totally comfortable deploying that term,

especially in its usual derogatory, casually-sexist usage–but in a purely descriptive and possibly cynical sense, that’s what we have here. It’s a love story, featuring a conventionally handsome leading man (Patrick Dempsey) playing opposite a conventionally pretty woman (Michelle Monaghan) whose character is engaged to marry the conventionally wrong guy (blond Scot Kevin McKidd). It’s directed by a man (Paul Weiland), although to its credit there is a woman prominently involved (co-writer Deborah Kaplan), and it’s designed from the bottom up to appeal to undemanding female filmgoers.

What it’s specifically not intended to do is challenge them in any way. As surely as action-figure porn like Transformers is engineered to whip its target audience of overgrown adolescent males into a violent froth, Made of Honor is built to fulfill a desire for a comforting romantic comedy scrubbed clean of surprises or subtlety. Self-absorbed womanizer Tom (Dempsey) morphs into prime husband material over a brisk 101 minutes upon realizing that longtime friend Hannah (Monaghan) has decided to wed strapping Scotch whiskey heir Colin (McKidd), whom she met on a six-week excursion to the UK. The deliberate encoding of Colin as an undesirable “other” is a mite surprising, coming as it does in a film from an English director. But he has to be vilified on some level if Tom’s eventual triumph is to match the moral promise of the film’s title. It’s not just that Tom discovers he’s in love with Hannah–he learns that she’s dangerously stupid, ready to abandon country and career to marry a shallow, domineering aristocrat whose family talks funny, whose home is decorated with the bodies of animals he’s killed, and who expects his woman to behave like a lady.

In other words, Hannah needs a good man to save her from herself, because she doesn’t know any better than to throw herself, body and soul, after the first pretty boy who falls into her life on an extended business trip. Tom obliges by embarking on a journey of self-discovery that climaxes, of course, with his timely arrival at the “forever hold your peace” moment of Hannah’s nuptials. I’m not a big Carrie Bradshaw fan, but this stuff makes Sex and the City look like an Altman film. Made of Honor is a chick flick in about the same sense that the Sarah Palin nomination is a triumph of feminism.

Dempsey and Monaghan both have adequate screen presence but not much chemistry between them, although there’s a kissing scene that’s reasonably hot. (Monaghan in particular could use a white knight in her agent’s office to land her at least one of the high-quality roles she really deserves at this point in her career.) Director Weiland’s resume contains a few episodes of Mr. Bean—I’ll do him the favour of not even mentioning Leonard Part 6—which helps explain this film’s occasional tendencies towards slapstick and general retreat from any kind of nuanced exploration of character or circumstance. Short cameos by the late Sydney Pollack—who’s first seen marrying his sixth wife, a 30ish blonde who negotiates her sexual obligations to the old man in the form of a pre-nup and struts around her wedding party to the accompaniment of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”—are the sum total of whatever gravitas this obstinately superficial film has to offer.

Sony’s 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray transfer seems to be an adequate, if unspectacular, representation of the work of cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, here favoring long lenses and warm colours. While much of the film was shot in Los Angeles, there are a few nice shots on location in New York, including one taken of the two stars on a bridge in Central Park as a thick mist, suffused by late-day sunlight, settles in over the city around them. Weiland has the good taste to draw attention to all of this on his audio commentary track, which is split between meandering gab about story points and actual observations on the process. (My favourite nugget is his shout-out to Santa Monica firm Lola VFX, specialists in digital wrinkle-reduction for movie stars.)

Weiland talks about shots that were cut due to adverse reactions from test audiences and/or the MPAA, but we don’t get to see any of that material. Instead, we get two eminently uninteresting standard-def deleted scenes—more like extended scenes, really—that add up to barely more than three minutes in length. Two HD featurettes round out the package: “Save the Date: The Making of Made of Honor” (13 mins.) is your typical B-roll-and-interviews affair, highlighted by some poignant footage of Pollack on set (also, did you know Patrick Dempsey is handsome? Everyone on this film thinks so!); and “Three Weddings and a Skyline” (7 mins.) has production designer Kalina Ivanov discussing her work on the wedding scenes.

I’d be lying if I said there was anything at all about the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundmix that caught my attention. (I was listening to its 640 kbps core.) The French and Portuguese tracks are also TrueHD; the Spanish and Thai audio is plain old Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (traditional and simplified) Thai, Korean, Hindi, and Indonesian.

This review was originally commissioned by and written for Film Freak Central.

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