Thursday, October 2, 2008


Anybody who doesn't like the director Gary Marshall's "Runaway Bride" (*** out of ****) must be a curmudgeon. This harmless but hilarious romantic comedy about a bride with a chronic case of cold feet who abandons her men at the altar before van vow "I Do" reunites "Pretty Woman" co-stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere after a nine year hiatus. While the big city "Pretty Woman" tied the romantic knot between a lonely investment banker and a hot, awesome street walker of a babe, "Runaway Bride" retreats deep into the country to bring a gray-haired, chauvinistic USA Today columnist eyeball-to-eyeball with a flirtatious but fickle-minded maiden who owns a local hardware store. Aside from a couple of bittersweet moments, "Runaway Bride" emerges as luminous and lighthearted as Julia's radiant smile.

Although most of the comedy in "Bride" occurs in the small town of Hale, Maryland, this entertaining battle of the sexes opens in a cozy, New York City neighborhood bar where fast-talking cynic Ike Graham (Richard Gere of "Red Corner") is searching desperately for either something or somebody to skewer in his daily column. Ike loves to infuriate woman, and many of them take a whack at him on the street with his own newspaper as if he were a mangy mutt. After director Garry Marshall and co-scenarists Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott, who together wrote "Worth Winning" and "The Favor," establish that he is a last-minute journalist, Ike hears a story that he embellishes with his sarcastic wit. A jilted groom tells Kike about a hysterical dame in Maryland who accepts marriage proposals but skips out on the way to the altar at the last minute, catching a ride on truck or horse if either is available to make good her getaway.

Unfortunately, Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts of "Ocean's Twelve") compiles a laundry list of Ike's inaccuracies. This prompts Ike's ex-wife turned editor, Ellie (Rita Wilson of "The Story of Us"), to fire him. No sooner has poor Ike gotten sacked than Fisher (Hector Elizondo of "Valdez Is Coming"), Ike's good friend and a photographer that free-lances for GQ magazine, concocts revenge for our hero. If Ike can catch Maggie in flight from her next wedding, GQ will publish his story and Ike's reputation will be restored.

When Ike arrives in Hale, Maryland, a community so harmonious that the town's barbershop quartet performs regularly in public, Maggie is working on fiancé number four, Bob (Christopher Meloni of "Twelve Monkeys"), a high school football coach. Of course, Maggie wants nothing to do with Ike, but Ike isn't easily shunned. Initially, as a joke during his first interview with her, Maggie and her hairdresser friends dupe Ike and dye his mane the colors of the rainbow. Later, Ike cozies up with Maggie's family. Before long, he has the entire town eating out of his hand as he learns more about Maggie's dysfunctional lifestyle. Eventually, instead of hating one another, Ike and Maggie become attracted to each other, much to Bob's chagrin.

Hopelessly predictable as it is, "Runaway Bride" qualifies nevertheless as a lot of fun, especially if you're looking for a bright, infectiously funny comedy to lighten your mood.

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