'Bride Wars': Film Review

Bride Wars - H 2015
Courtesy of Fox International Productions
A facile and uninspired remake of a facile and uninspired original.

Kate Hudson reprises her role as producer for a Chinese remake of her 2009 wedding comedy.

The stampede to China’s massive box office continues with Hot Summer Days writer-director Tony Chan’s spin on Gary Winick’s insipid, borderline offensive 2009 Bride Wars starring Anne Hathaway and co-producer Kate Hudson. In the same way the Hollywood version stripped its leads of any dignity they might have mustered, this Bride Wars embarrasses popular actors Ni Ni and Angelababy. After opening reasonably strong at home, receipts plummeted drastically the following week, suggesting Chinese audiences saw through this cynical excuse for a movie. Co-producer and distributor Fox International Pictures may be able to find some curious audiences regionally based on the strength of the stars, but Bride Wars is destined for the refuse heap after that.

In the way the US remake of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy failed because it didn’t reset the story to take the intensely Korean edge off, the ability of the filmmakers to take time to understand the material and tweak it where necessary is what made The Departed, based on the Hong Kong actioner Infernal Affairs, work. That and director Martin Scorsese’s nearly innate command of the genre. While Chan is a fairly practiced, if pedestrian (and slightly tone deaf when it comes to women interacting) hand at contemporary rom-com, neither Hudson nor Julie Yorn, reprising their producers’ roles here understands or cares about the shifting tastes, mores and peculiarities of Chinese nuptial customs (there’s a film there, but it’s not this one). The briefest whiff of the local culture finally rears its head near the film’s finale (because really, parents nagging their children over when they’re going to settle down is a universal constant), but other than that Bride Wars cleaves closely to the idea of the ideal Western wedding and all its gaudy expense, stress and draconian tradition.

We begin on a reality competition show (random much?) where childhood BFFs He Jing (Angelababy, Rise of the Legend, Hitman: Agent 47) and Ma Li (Ni, Zhang Yimou’s historical epic The Flowers of War) are pitted against each other over a honeymoon trip or something. They’ve been at war since a booking mix-up canceled one of their white wedding receptions at the Garden of Romance, both women’s dream reception venue managed by the ineffectual wedding planner Alexander (He Jiong). This is a nearly note-for-note rehash of 2009 film, and so detailing the various petty sabotages, epiphanies, scraps and finally reconciliation is redundant. The only notable difference is that Jing and Li both get their wedding day to the guy they start out with.

Fox and Bona Film are both industry giants, guaranteeing Bride Wars a high level of technical polish, and indeed the status of the two no doubt lured Ni and Angelababy to the project. Unfortunately they can’t do much to help lift this poorly conceived misfire from the mire, interminable at a brief 89 minutes. Ni, as the driven Li (effectively the Hudson character), and Chan’s idea of realizing ambition in a woman is to have her throw a lot of side-eye and turn up the brow-raising. As the meeker Hathaway character, the normally engaging Angelababy’s Jing is reduced almost to foot stomping brattiness to illustrate her growing assertiveness. As the fiancés stuck in the middle, Zhu Yawen (The Golden Era) as Luo Dan and Chen Xiao (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) as Kevin are more plot points than characters; archetypes that give Li and Jing, respectively, a reason to need a wedding reception.

If the sloppy storytelling and resolute lack of genuine humor weren’t enough, the narrative is littered with fat/gay/spinster jokes (though admittedly those charming chestnuts are kept to a minimum), a sickening level of glorified consumption (Li and Jing have a new outfit in every scene) and a princess feminist tone that’s more ugly than empowering. Whether Bride Wars is the start of a Sino-fied wedding movie trend (Alexi Tan’s My Best Friend’s Wedding is slated for 2016) is anyone’s guess. Early indicators would seem to plead for it to end before it truly blossoms.

Production company: Bona Film, Fox International Productions

Cast: Angelababy, Ni Ni, Chen Xiao, Zhu Yawen, He Jiong, Jing Boran

Director: Tony Chan

Screenwriter: Tony Chan, based on the screenplay by Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael

Producer: Fruit Chan, Kate Hudson, Julie Yorn

Executive producer: Yu Dong, Jeffery Chan, Carrie Wong

Director of photography: Kokei Leung

Production designer: Walter Wong

Costume designer: Kevin Ma

Editor: Wenders Li

Music: Eddie Chung

Casting director: Ye Lifeng

World sales: Fox International Productions

No rating, 89 minutes