Runaway Bride

Directed by Garry Marshall
Starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson.
MPAA Rating: PG for language and some suggestive dialogue.

Review by Matt Heffernan
July 30, 1999

It's been nine years since Pretty Woman hit the silver screen. It jumpstarted the career of Julia Roberts, making her a major Hollywood star. But these past nine years have not been so kind to Richard Gere and Garry Marshall. Gere has had only a smatterring of success since then, and Marshall hasn't had any luck behind the camera. The three have now been reunited (along with fellow alumni Hector Elizondo and Larry Miller) in a film that has the potential for another moment in the sun.

Gere plays USA Today columnist Ike Graham, a cynical New Yorker who vents his frustration (mostly with the opposite sex) with his writing. He hears a story in a bar about a woman in rural Maryland named Maggie Carpenter (Roberts). The locals have nicknamed her "The Runaway Bride" because of her all-too-frequent departures from the altar. Ike writes about the story he has heard in his next column, but some of the facts he got were exaggerated (for example, she only dumped three grooms, not seven). When Maggie reads this, she writes a letter to the editor, demanding an apology. Upon reading this, the editor, Ellie (Rita Wilson), fires Ike, who also happens to be her ex-husband.

Ellie's current husband, Fisher (Elizondo), is a photographer for the paper, but also does freelance work for GQ. He gets Ike an assignment there to get the real story on Maggie. Ike goes down to Maryland, meets Maggie, possible victim number four, Bob (Christopher Meloni), and the rest of the town. He tells Maggie that he is going to follow her around until she leaves Bob, too. Of course, Ike sees that Maggie is making another mistake, and that he is the perfect guy for her.

Runaway Bride is a very cute, funny romantic comedy, as we would expect from the team involved. The depiction of the small town (which Ike, himself, compares to Mayberry) is done very well. It is populated by many amusing characters, including Maggie's friend, Peggy (Joan Cusack), the hair stylist. Laurie Metcalf also makes a humorous turn as Betty, the baker who has made many a cake for Maggie. A nice little detail is that it seems that all the kids are either twins or triplets, which helps pile on the "cute" factor. The audience is drawn into this environment with Ike as he goes around meeting and interviewing these people.

For the first half of the film, the dialogue is very witty, with clever exchanges between Ike and Maggie. But after the midpoint, and until about the last twenty minutes, the humor starts to sag. The development of a romance between the leads is rather clunky, and brings everything to a screeching halt. It seems that they were running out of jokes, so they saved them for later.

One thing that was kind of annoying was the choice of songs for the soundtrack. The opening shot is Maggie, dressed in her gown, riding a horse through a field, after dumping number three. Over this, we hear "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2. This is typical of the songs that obviously reflect the situation in their lyrics (even right down to the words "through the field"). Scorsese uses popular music as a counterpoint to action. Marshall, or whoever was responsible (Paul Schaffer, perhaps?), thinks it's necessary to redundantly explain the situation.

All things considered, it is an entertaining film, and the chemistry between Gere and Roberts saves the day again. If you liked Pretty Woman, you shouldn't be too disappointed.

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Runaway Bride (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan