27 Dresses is the type of movie people tend to describe as "cute" with a condescending inflection that drains any hint of fondness from the word. A romantic comedy that breaks no rules, it drains as much suspense and as many laughs from its gimmicky setup as the rules of the genre allow. Its pleasures are incidental and fleeting—a well-delivered one-liner here, a memorable costume there, a brief dance sequence now and then—and it strives for bland inoffensiveness. Made 10 years ago, it probably would have starred a vacationing cast member from Friends.
Instead, it stars Katherine Heigl, an actress now in the not-so-sweet spot of being a big enough name to headline a movie, but not so big as to command first-rate material or collaborators. She's a charming presence who proved her comic chops in Knocked Up, and though she does her best in 27 Dresses, she's stranded in a morass of contrivances. She plays a character pathologically fixated on weddings, a perennial bridesmaid—a 27-timer, to be exact—first seen standing up at two weddings in one night. At one, she meets and instantly dislikes a caustic, wedding-scoffing guest (James Marsden); later, she learns that he writes the moving wedding column she clips from the paper each Sunday. Heigl only has eyes for her boss (a sleepy Edward Burns), the owner of an ecologically responsible outdoor-goods company who falls hard for Heigl's sister, a hard-living beauty who only pretends to share his Earth-loving values.
It's a tangle unknotted in the most predictable fashion by Aline McKenna's script, and with little flair from choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher. Marsden and Heigl have nice chemistry, but they don't do much with it until relatively late in the film. Melora Hardin and Judy Greer do have fun moments as Marsden's tough editor and Heigl's sarcastic best friend, respectively; with a formula this stiff, it helps to have a few voices of doubt in the mix, especially when every step toward the happy ending feels as inevitable and unchanging as the Electric Slide.