Runaway Bride

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Runaway Bride

Few directors have dedicated themselves to making insufferably cutesy, slightly morally abhorrent romantic comedies with quite as much vigor as Garry Marshall, who apparently loves them so much that, in addition to directing two of the worst films of the year (this and The Other Sister), he also found time to appear in Drew Barrymore's Never Been Kissed. Always willing to sacrifice the integrity of his characters for the sake of a cheap punchline, Marshall generally directs his films with the subtlety and sophistication of a Joanie Loves Chachi reunion movie. His latest is Runaway Bride, which reunites the director, two leads (Richard Gere and Julia Roberts), and two of the supporting actors (Larry Miller and Hector Elizando) from Pretty Woman for another contrived, unconvincing romantic comedy that once again mixes stale sitcom humor with laughable attempts at pathos and emotional depth. Julia Roberts stars as the title character, a winsome but skittish small-town girl who has left a trail of men at the altar. The wooden Richard Gere co-stars as a hotshot columnist for USA Today, who picks up a hot tip from a staggering drunk at a bar one day and decides to write a scathing critique of Roberts' treatment of men. What follows is the most cringe-inducingly smug romantic comedy since, well, The Other Sister, as Gere's condescending city slicker discovers love in a small town filled with so many lovable eccentrics that it looks and feels like a Disneyland conception of what life in middle America is all about. Gere is one of the least sympathetic or convincing romantic leads in recent memory, and if Roberts' performance stands out, it's probably just because everything that surrounds her is so lifeless and superficial. Marshall, Gere, and Roberts have allegedly been waiting a full decade to collaborate again, but if this is the best they can do, they should have kept waiting.