“‘Bride’ Cute, but not ‘Pretty'”
by Scott Mantz

“Runaway Bride”
Julia Roberts, Richard Gere
Directed by Garry Marshall

There’s an old, ancient Hollywood proverb: “If at first you succeed, try again and again”. That’s pretty obvious when you look at the ridiculous number of sequels released every year, but sometimes re-teaming actors and directors in a different story works just as well. Its been a whopping 9 years since Julia Roberts and Richard Gere worked with Director Garry Marshall. That collaboration resulted in one of 1990’s biggest success stories–“Pretty Woman”.

For years, Roberts and Gere had discussed doing another film with Marshall, and here it is. Predictable, and with a screenplay so full of holes it would make a groundhog jealous, “Runaway Bride” is a sweet, but ultimately inferior, follow-up to “Woman”.

Fortunately, the movie gets by with its charm. Roberts and Gere have never looked better, and the chemistry between them is still strong. Roberts makes a double play for the summer of ’99, coming off the success of that other charming film, “Notting Hill”.

Ike Graham (Richard Gere) is a cocky newspaper reporter writing a story about small-town Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts)–a woman who has a dirty habit of literally leaving men at the altar. He travels to her hometown to get the full story, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens next.

One of the reasons why “Pretty Woman” worked so well was because of its fairy tale-like appeal (if you can call glorification of prostitution a fairy tale). Given that approach, it was easy to overlook elements that you might not believe. In “Bride”, you know Ike and Maggie will end up together, and the fun should be in seeing how its going to happen.

Unfortunately, the script cuts too many corners to move things along, and most of the characters don’t follow any motivation. How Ike could be accepted by the community to which the scorned Maggie belongs is beyond me. Maggie’s groom-to-be (Christopher Meloni) is nothing more than an irritating distraction (think Bill Pullman in “Sleepless in Seattle”), and we cannot buy why she is with him in the first place.

We never truly find enough about Maggie to understand her behavior, and it should take a lot more than a stranger from the big city to point it out to her. Also, other than her physical beauty and her perky behavior, Maggie doesn’t have too many redeeming qualities. She shows little remorse about her previous marriage attempts, and she flirts with her best friend’s husband. When, and how, Maggie finally comes to her senses about Ike is never made clear.

Romantic comedies may be formulaic, but this potion is missing too many key ingredients. Despite this, Roberts and Gere have enough appeal to pull the movie off, and star power alone will ensure that “Bride” runs away with the box office.