Bridesmaids (US - BD)
Jonathan revisits his favourite comedy of 2011 and finds a motherload of extras
Thirty-something Annie (Kristen Wiig) has hit a rough patch but finds her life turned completely upside down when she takes on the Maid of Honor role in her best friend Lillian's (Maya Rudolph) wedding. In way over her head but determined to succeed, Annie leads a hilarious hodgepodge of bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper) on a wild ride down the road to the big event. (From the Universal synopsis)
When I first noticed Bridesmaids by stumbling upon its pre-production IMDb page, my face lit up. Kristen Wiig was not only writing a comedy film, but starring as the lead? And Paul Feig who directed Freaks and Geeks was working with producer Judd Apatow again. It sounded amazing. However, when the first trailer hit the net, my excitement took a huge dip. The preview simply didn't amuse me with its misuse of musical cues to punctuate all the wrong moments, and it was clear Universal was trying to market this as a female alternative to The Hangover. A smart business move, no doubt, but as I found out when I finally watched it, it's a comparison that seriously undermines the talent and comedic brilliance on display in Bridesmaids.
I ended up seeing the film three times in theaters and still had a blast viewing it again for this review. The ensemble cast is hilarious and filled with talented leading ladies, some of whom I'd never seen before. This was my first time seeing Melissa McCarthy in anything, and though I occasionally found her character's lines and behaviour a bit too forced, she steals most of the scenes she is in with her commanding and shameless comedic presence. Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper make a hilarious juxtaposed duo as Rita and Becca; an exhausted cynical mother and a naive newlywed. Rose Byrne, who also appeared in X-Men: First Class this summer, makes a hilariously devious rival for Annie, as they duke it out for the affections of Lillian, the bride the be. Lillian is played by Maya Rudolph, and her real life friendship with Kristen Wiig translates to screen chemistry perfectly.
Another surprise was Chris O'Dowd, who I knew of from the original IT Crowd but had never seen in anything personally. Jon Hamm, who is known mostly for his work as the stern Don Draper on Mad Men, gets a chance to show off his comedic talents and succeeds effortlessly. His line-o-rama material in the extras section is maddeningly funny. I could keep going on about the talented cast that infuses Bridesmaids with limitless charm. Producer Judd Apatow and director Paul Feig have assembled a lethal team of comedy geniuses. Feig was the perfect choice to direct. His experiences with Freaks and Geeks more than demonstrate that he has a talent for building likable characters with emotional centers that are also very funny. Following in the footsteps of the Apatow formula - mixing the sweet with the raunchy - Apatow and Universal have another winning comedy on their hands. The dramatic elements of the film aren't made up of Oscar-worthy material, but they're more than competent and give you a reason to care for the characters and their conflicts; something that most raunchy comedies just don't bother with. It brings a level of sincerity and allurement to the material that elevates the humour even further.
Universal gives Bridesmaids a stellar 1080p/24 (AVC) video transfer. The colours look great. The film's palette often features that slightly yellow push to give an added warmth to certain scenes, and the set decoration seems designed to complement it with browns and yellows often filling the background. Blues are also placed into certain scenes and have an alluring depth to them. Black levels are just as I remember them from the theatrical presentation. Detail is as strong as one can reasonably expect for something shot on film, and there's a nice soft grain that persists throughout the movie. I noticed some minor banding and blocking near a street light in one nighttime shot, and there are some mild cases of shimmer in bright outdoor scenes, but these were short instances and no other compression artefacts made an appearance as far as I could tell.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, as with many comedies, isn't exactly destined to be a pinnacle of sound design, but this sound mix is filled with plenty of little delights. Surround channels are filled with a surprising amount of ambient noise, be it the background chatter of other restaurant patrons, birds chirping, or the sound of tennis balls hitting rackets from multiple directions. They're subtle additions, but they make for a very consistent and believable environment for the characters to occupy. The songs sound great and effectively fill the stereo channels. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and kept front and center. Directional effects are scarce, but used when appropriate. There's a particular sequence where Annie drives by a location multiple times, and it's very easy to notice the shifts in sound.
If you'd like a quick listing of the extras included with this region-free release, please check the side of the page. Normally I do a paragraph or give brief descriptions of each feature here, but this release is packed full of quality special features and deserves some extra attention, so I'm going to do my best to give it just that. This package comes with a digital copy and a DVD. The included DVD has the same deleted scenes, extended/alternate scenes, gag reel, line-o-rama, Cholodecki's commercial, and feature commentary as the Blu-ray disc.
Full disclosure: for the sake of getting this review out in a timely manner, I didn't listen to the full commentary track, which features director Paul Feig, Co-writer Annie Mumolo, and cast members Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper. I revisited some favourite scenes and turned it on, and from what I've heard I can say that there is a lot more goofing around and a lot less sharing of information than your usual commentary track. Seeing as this is a comedy, that's more than okay with me, and I look forward to hearing the whole thing when I've got the time.
English, Spanish, and French subtitles are included with all of the following extras
Gag Reel (09:41, HD): This is one hysterical gag reel. Most gag reel extras are just thrown-together outtake footage, but you can tell some care went into mastering these scenes and editing them together with a music track on top. Similar types of outtakes are grouped together. I dare you not to laugh at Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig's filthy-mouthed shouting match, or when a stage hand accidentally touches Jon Hamm's rear. There was a lot of goofing around on set, and the funny chemistry really shows in the final product.
Line-O-Rama (12:13, HD): You can watch this one split into two separate six minute segments, or hit the "Play All" feature. As is usual with the Apatow canon, there is a lot of improvisation from the actors, and a lot of extra takes to sample different dialogue options. Bridesmaids is no exception, so here we have another carefully edited HD presentation of many of those improvised and alternative lines that didn't make it into the movie. They come at a rapid pace, so in just twelve minutes' time you'll have heard a ton of material. Some of it was included in a Funny or Die video that hit the net shortly after the film's theatrical release. There's a lot of funny stuff here, but it's evident that lot of it is just too silly or out there for the feature film. Fans of the more outrageous lines in the film will have a blast with this one.
Made of Honor: Behind the Scenes of Bridesmaids (31:43, HD): This is a more tame feature that seeks to inform instead of providing laughs, but with such a naturally funny group of filmmakers and cast members, there are still a lot of laughs here. There's even some more gag reel and line-o-rama type footage cut into this that wasn't in the other features. Wiig and Mumolo talk about their history together and how they got involved with writing the film. Much of the time is spent talking about the cast members and how much they all loved working with each other. There is some footage from the rehearsals, while Paul Feig talks about the improvisational process and how the characters were formed by it. McCarthy kills it in rehearsal. Rose Byrne talks about how she loved playing the crafty Helen. The second half is dedicated more to the shooting schedule and the filming process, including shooting locations and sets. It covers everything you could want to know about the film and more.
Blind Date with Dave (05:21, HD): This is a very funny deleted scene that was given its own section. It features Kristen Wiig's character on a blind date with a belligerent jerk, played by Apatow regular Paul Rudd. UCB comedy fans will also get a small dose of Ian Roberts in this segment.
Dave-o-rama (01:45, HD): If you couldn't guess it, this is a line-o-rama featurette specifically for the Blind Date with Dave segment. It's pretty much just Paul Rudd yelling random improvised obscenities for two minutes. You can hear his voice getting really hoarse. If you're a fan, like myself, it's comedy gold.
Deleted Scenes (08:57, HD): There are three of them in total. As with the earlier special features, these are fully produced and mastered in 1080p. The first scene features some of the bridesmaids shopping around in an Ikea-like store. There's a couple of decent jokes in here, but the scene would have dragged down the pace in the feature film. The other two scenes revolve around Annie's depression and relationship with her mother. They are a bit redundant and overlong, so it's not hard to see why they were cut from the film, but there is more of the great mother-daughter chemistry between Jill Clayburgh and Kirsten Wiig.
Alternate and Extended Scenes (50:03, SD): Yeah, that's right. Fifty minutes. There are about seventeen of them total, and they're all variations of scenes that made it into the final cut of the movie. There's a lot of footage here that hasn't changed from the feature film, but if the sea of alternative takes and deleted scenes isn't enough to fill your plate, this feature will almost certainly do the trick. It's baffling to think that the dueling speeches scene could have actually gone on longer than it already did. This is the only feature in standard definition (likely to save disc space), but the picture still looks cleaned up.
Roommates is a section dedicated to Annie's awkward sibling roommates, played by Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson. The section kicks off with Welcome Home (01:37, HD), which is essentially a line-o-rama bit for a scene where Annie comes home and they are up to awkward things. Following this are three deleted scenes that feature the siblings, running for about six minutes total. Then they have their own HD alternate/extended scenes section with an additional ten minutes of footage, with more disgusting screen time for that Mexican drinking worm tattoo. The final bit in this section is the Oo-Laka Juice Commercial (01:11, HD), which is a weird, public access style juice commercial featuring the two roommates. If you enjoyed these characters in the film, this dedicated extras section is more of them than you could have possibly wanted.
Cholodecki's is another all-HD extras section dedicated to a specific part of the film. In this case, it's the jewelry store that Annie works for. Things kick off with another deleted scenes reel with five minutes of footage. Then there's fifteen more minutes of alternate/extended footage, and another fake commercial to go along with the Oo-Laka Juice segment. I personally loved these bits. Michael Hitchcock (known best for his work in Christopher Guest comedies) is hilarious as Annie's boss.
Drunk-o-rama (04:21, HD) is yet another line-o-rama feature that focuses on Annie's drunken ramblings from the airplane scene. There is some hysterical stuff here. Fans of Wiig or viewers who particularly enjoyed that scene will eat this one up.
Pep Talk (02:41, HD) is a fun little segment of tennis pep talk that features some funny footage from Nancy Carrell (Steven Carrell's wife) and SNL alum Melanie Hutsell as Helen and Annie's respective tennis partners.
Annie vs Helen (07:29, HD) is another enjoyable segment of alternate/extended footage between Wiig and Byrne's characters and their passive aggressive insults.
Hold On (04:31, HD) is the full version of the Wilson Phillips song, "Hold On", that appears at the end of the film. There's more footage of the ensemble cast dancing and goofing around to the music. It's a fun way to wrap-up to the special features section.
Bridesmaids is a delightful comedy with a talented ensemble cast and an enormously likable Kristen Wiig in the lead role. It deserves to be remembered as a great comedy, and not just as a "good chick flick" or a "female Hangover". As expected with Apatow's comedy productions, this Blu-ray release is crammed full of hilarious extra materials (approximately three hours worth, and a commentary track!), and a great AV presentation to boot. Fans shouldn't hesitate to pick up this release.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 20th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Spanish, DTS 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Unrated and Theatrical Versions of the Film, Deleted Scenes, Extended & Alternate Scenes, Gag Reel, Roomates, Cholodecki's Commercial, Made of Honor: Behind the Scenes of Bridesmaids, Annie vs. Helen, Drunk-O-Rama, Line-O-Rama, Annie's Blind Date with Dave, Dave-o-rama, Tennis Pep Talk, Hold On, Feature Commentary with Filmmakers and Cast Members
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 125 minutes
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