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Starring Kristin Wiig, Jon Hamm and Maya Rudolph

GIRLS WANNA HAVE FUN: The cast of ‘Bridesmaids’ will have all genders cracking up over their wedding hijinks. Courtesy photo.

Comedies with female casts have always been something I avoided.  The jokes and the humor are often challenging to someone with testicles. But, to be a film critic, I have to try and embrace that which I don’t understand. It’s the only way to grow. Usually, this means suffering through shite like “Sex and the City 2” or watching some poorly written romantic comedy featuring Kate Hudson, which is, of course, every movie starring Kate Hudson!

“Bridesmaids” is proof that someone can make a funny movie featuring the ladies, which doesn’t revert to the same old clichéd gags.  This is a damn funny movie, pitch perfect with the right amount of earnest and insanity. I haven’t laughed this hard in ages.

Annie (Kristen Wiig of “SNL”) is down on her luck. She’s seen better days since her bakery shut down and now works in a jewelry store as the world’s most depressing salesperson. Her love life is practically non existent, except for the random late-night booty calls she gets from an obnoxious, insensitive hunk named Ted (Jon Hamm). The only semblance of sanity comes from her lifelong friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Their friendship is all that keeps Annie from hitting rock bottom.

Then, the inevitable happens. Lillian gets engaged to her boyfriend and the madness begins. Annie is named “Maid of Honor” and tries to accommodate her best friend. This is tough due to her financial difficulties and the growing stressors being hurled at her. Enter Helen (Rose Byrne), Lillian’s new friend who is beautiful, rich, and eager to step in and take over the planning. This rubs Annie the wrong way. All she has left is Lillian, and watching someone else step in and steal her affections begins to push her to a breaking point.

Annie spends most of the film on a delicious downward spiral that leads Lillian’s bridal party to hell and back. There are a couple of classic scenes—most notably a visit to a pristine bridal shop where a bout of food poisoning kicks in. The level of pain and torture some of these characters endure is priceless. Annie is very similar to the character Ben Stiller played in “There’s Something About Mary.” At heart, there’s a nice person in there that is just pushed and pushed and pushed beyond reason, to the point her life crumbles into an unrecognizable pile of rubble.

The reason “Bridesmaids” works so well is the dedication to the characters. Wiig does a great job making Annie a lovable neurotic.  Even when she is the arbiter of her own destruction, and sabotages every opportunity, audiences can’t help but hope she eventually surfaces.

The supporting cast is equally engaging. Even the smallest roles have been filled with great comedy performers. Every member of the bridal party brings something different to the table, but no one does a better job than Melissa McCarthy as the ultimate extension of the unchecked id, Megan. To call her performance “fearless” would be an epic understatement. Her brazen and unflinching attitude, the sex drive of a wild wildebeest, and a surprising third-act transition makes what could have been a throwaway gag part into an interesting, quotable character.

Even the guys manage to shine in their limited screen time. It’s so funny to see Jon Hamm play the world’s douchiest bachelor. Hamm is a master of comedy; his timing is impeccable. It’s even more impressive when watching him play Don Draper on “Mad Men” to realize how easily he moves between comedy and drama.

I have to give much love to Chris O’Dowd (“The IT Crowd”), who brings his unassailable charm to the role of Officer Rhodes. Even Tim Heidecker (“Tim & Eric Awesome Show,” “Great Job”) makes an appearance.

This is about as perfect a comedy as we’re  going to see. Director Paul Feig and his cast have packed the film with consistent laughs and a pinch of heartwarming schmaltz. My only criticism is that it goes on a little too long. Comedies often live and die in the editing room. Funny sequences can quickly turn unfunny if allowed to linger. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of fat in “Bridesmaids,” but it feels like there were a couple of gags and a few scenes that could have been shaved down. Even still, “Bridesmaids” is on par with the best of the last 10 years. Just hilarious, for a guy or a gal.

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