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She Said: Fluffy film delves a tad too deeply into drama

There's something about Julia Roberts and weddings. In her new movie "Runaway Bride," Roberts is faced with yet another dilemma in which bridesmaids, bouquets and marches down the aisle serve as wallpaper for an entertaining yet predictable romantic comedy.

This time Roberts plays small town legend Maggie Carpenter, whose history as a pathological marriage dodger brings her widespread infamy in the form of a USA Today column.

Journalist Ike Graham, played by Richard Gere, is responsible for spreading the news of the Runaway Bride who, in his opinion, is one in a long list of malicious man eaters. An irate letter from the Runaway Bride herself costs him his job on the grounds that Ike has reported inaccurate information.

Fortunately for Ike, an opportunity to write for "GQ" magazine presents itself when he is asked to interview Maggie and set the facts straight. Ike travels to Hale, Maryland, where he proceeds to befriend everyone in town, including Maggie's best friend Peggy (Joan Cusack) and her family.

Ike finds that after fleeing three anxious grooms in three unsuccessful wedding ceremonies (the earliest of which involved an elaborate Grateful Dead theme), Maggie, unlike her jilted fiancées, experiences no remorse for her past actions.

All of this makes Maggie nervous-after all, she is making preparations for her fourth wedding with high school football coach and sports enthusiast, Coach Bob (Christopher Meloni).

The rest of Ike's research focuses on the deeper causes of Maggie's habitual inability to commit, and eventually Maggie gives in to Ike's inquiries. Agreeing to let him observe her, Maggie gains a one-thousand-dollar wedding gown as part of the duo's deal (in a scene similar to one from "Pretty Woman").

Although it deals with issues that many people can easily relate to, "Bride'"s forced discussion of marriage as a way of denying one's own identity seems to dig too deeply for a light romantic comedy. When Ike accuses Maggie of disguising her unwillingness to think for herself, the conversation is melodramatic and awkward. The film attempts to tackle issues that it brushes over too quickly to really explore.

Inevitably, Ike and Maggie become closer in a short period of time and the obvious ending becomes more apparent as writers desperately try to get the two together before Maggie's next wedding. Poor Coach Bob has to watch while his soon-to-be wife and Ike discover their true feelings for each other during a wedding rehearsal.

It's hard to say which is more difficult to believe: Ike's sudden love for Maggie, or her decision to alter plans and marry Ike. Maggie says that the partnership feels right: she already has a dress and all the wedding essentials, so why not just replace the groom?

The film refreshingly steers clear of predictability as it reaches its climax (of course, another wedding). The hilarious sequence is one of the most surprising moments of the movie.

Often cheesy, Gere and Roberts save the plot considerably by recreating the same chemistry they had in "Pretty Woman." Even if the plot says they should not get together, the audience still wants them to.

The two stars worked together with director Garry Marshall on both movies, and he knows how to strike an audience member's funny bone.

Also, the many supporting characters get a chance to shine. Cusack is especially funny as the insecure Peggy, and Meloni has some great scenes with Roberts. He may truly be Prince Charming, but Maggie is not the princess for him.

Despite its many implausibilities, "Bride" does have its humorous moments. Julia Roberts delivers a believable performance with her exaggerated facial expressions and ability to drag innocent ring bearers behind her as she takes flight.

Gere, on the other hand, plays a bland and detached Ike, making it hard to see why Maggie would choose him for her final groom.

Without much character depth and an unlikely plot, "Bride" is not exactly an Oscar-worthy film. But with its manufactured formula for summer blockbuster status, this romantic comedy ensures success by allowing the audience to sit back and let the cheese flow freely.


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