Made of Honor (2008)

Ten minutes into Made of Honor, and Patrick Dempsey recalls just how well he can handle comedy, given a competent script.  By minute 11, however, the competence wanes, a flood of contrivances rushes in to fill the void, and it doesn’t let up for another 90 minutes.

Tom (Dempsey) meets Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) in college.  He’s cute.  She’s cute.  They both act cute together and then poof, ten years later, Tom is a serial dater (which is just a nice way of saying he’s a man slut), with a girl for every night of the week, except Sundays.   Tom keeps his Sabbath holy by enjoying a chaste platonic relationship with Hannah, whose friendship he’s somehow managed to maintain.

They cavort through city restaurants and street side vendors more like a brother and sister.  Hannah brims with a secret affection for Tom, and for the first half hour, it’s like watching two talents work their best at imitating Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  All that’s missing is an email chat.

Work calls Hannah away to Scotland for six weeks where she will meet a manly Scottish lad named Colin (Kevin McKidd) with whom she will fall desperately in love.  In her absence, Tom will pine for her as his nightly flings become less and less of a draw.

Come on, did you really think it was going to get more challenging?

Early critics called this a gender reversal on My Best Friend’s Wedding, a film that at least tried to challenge preconceptions.  Made of Honor makes no such effort.  It works hard to generate shallow chuckles at the expense of throwaway characters and maligned stereotypes.  It plays on every cliché, every gender bending joke, and lacks any courage or conviction to explore the implications raised by its premise.

The script offers some hints at depth that might have made for a better story, like Tom’s relationship to his father (the late, and missed, Sydney Pollack), a man who serializes marriage about as much as his son serializes dating.  Or when Tom gets together with his cadre of paper-thin friends to play basketball — they look like a bunch of posers, more at home putting together gift baskets after Tom has accepted his role as Hannah’s maid of honor.  When Colin arrives, his masculinity plays in direct counterpoint to Tom’s mere manly playacting.  Yet there’s never any conflict between the two that might urge Tom to step up.

These elements exist just to score a laugh.  There’s no development beyond the chuckles.  Nothing to challenge the character’s identities as masculine or feminine.  Nothing to suggest that Tom’s flaws might be linked to his father’s.  Everyone pretty much ends up exactly as they were in the beginning, with one tiny exception that you likely won’t have to struggle too hard to predict.

The whole effort feels like an idea that started strong, and was beat to death by one of those producer meetings Frank Darabont lampooned so well in The Majestic.  At the end of the day, it almost begs a comparison to Spam — cheap, manufactured, and unnatural.

(photo courtesy DreamWorks/Paramount)

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