Actress's talent is wasted in an uninspiring movie

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27 Dresses is so chock-full of romantic-comedy cliches that it almost plays like a parody.

Katherine Heigl, as Jane, a perpetual bridesmaid, revels in an impromptu modeling of the "Bahama Mama" dress in 27 Dresses.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Katherine Heigl, as Jane, a perpetual bridesmaid, revels in an impromptu modeling of the "Bahama Mama" dress in 27 Dresses.

(It might be fun, though, if they handed out lists at the multiplex door to allow you to check them off as you go along -- could be an interactive thing. You know, to help pass the time.)

Katherine Heigl's Jane is always a bridesmaid and never a bride, a role she has performed 27 times already because she's so adept at anticipating and meeting her friends' every prenuptial need.

She is secretly in love with her boss (Edward Burns) but, naturally, there's another guy out there (James Marsden) whom she initially clashes with, and who obviously will end up being the one to keep her from having to wear bridesmaid dress No. 28.

Director Anne Fletcher (Step Up ) and writer Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada ) also cram in a wisecracking best friend, the obligatory trying-on-clothes montage featuring all the hideous taffeta concoctions in Jane's closet, and a cringe-inducing sing-along to Elton John's Bennie and the Jets .

Of course, the whole thing wraps up with a mad dash to blurt out some very painful, public I love yous. On stage. At a microphone. Outside of movies like this, does anyone really do that sort of thing?

Ms. Heigl has such an intriguingly different presence for a romantic-comedy heroine, though -- there's nothing cutesy about her, nothing self-conscious -- that she makes you long desperately to see her work with more inspired material. The star of TV's Grey's Anatomy proved a reliable straight woman in last summer's Knocked Up opposite a gaggle of goofy guys who stole all the laughs. Here, with her first chance to carry a movie, she maintains a down-to-earth likability, despite the fluffiness of the dialogue and situations.

One woman can do only so much. Two women, however -- Ms. Fletcher and Ms. McKenna -- could have done much more, and they should have. In an industry dominated by men, where female filmmakers are still making the slightest headway, they owe it to female moviegoers to provide entertainment that isn't just mindless and mired in stereotypes. (This is especially a letdown coming from the person who adapted Prada , a script that was breezy and stylish.)

Costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas deserves a mention for creating those wild gowns, which range from goth and cowgirl to a Scarlet O'Hara-inspired monstrosity and a hot- pink micro-mini for a L.A. wedding.

The theory is that bridesmaid dresses are ugly to make the women getting married look better by comparison. 27 Dresses has the same effect on its romantic-comedy predecessors.

'27 DRESSES'

MPAA RATING: PG-13 for language, some innuendo and sexuality


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes


THE VERDICT: *1/2 out of ****


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