Runaway Bride - * * 1/2*

Runaway Bride

Although nearly ten years have passed, Runaway Bride tries to recreate the magic of Pretty Woman. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts return, along with a sizable portion of the earlier film’s cast. The director, Garry Marshall, is back as well. It’s too bad the story seems to be an afterthought.

Ike Graham (Richard Gere), a mysogynistic columnist for USA Today, has written his latest diatribe about a small town woman named Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts). Maggie has been led to the altar three times, and thrice has bolted at the last second. Ike characterizes her as a maneater, and when Maggie fires off a letter to the editor, Ike is fired.

Determined to prove himself right, Ike travels to the small town of Hale, Maryland. There he follows Maggie around, interviewing her friends and neighbors, trying to see what makes her tick. Maggie is scheduled to have her fourth wedding (to P.E. Coach Bob (Christopher Meloni)) in a few short days, and Ike is certain that she will bolt once again.

But, as can be expected (this is a romantic comedy, after all), Ike soon falls for Maggie’s rustic charms, and Maggie is secretly smitten by Ike’s big city ways. Can the two solve their differences and admit their love? Will Maggie run again? Oh, the suspense…The Suspense!!!

Whereas Pretty Woman was a modern fairy tale, Runaway Bride is just modern high concept. The characters are patched together and awkward. It’s hard to think that another romantic comedy would make Pretty Woman seem downright realistic, but here it is.

But the saving grace here is the chemistry of the stars. Gere and Roberts continue to play well off one another. As characters go, Julia has the better role here. Gere, on the other hand, slides by sheerly on the strength of his personality.

Runaway Bride boasts a strong supporting cast, including several familiar faces from, you guessed it, Pretty Woman (such as Larry Miller and Hector Elizondo). New additions Joan Cusack, Rita Wilson and Laurie Metcalf also give notable performances. But, as with the leads, the actors outshine the material.

Though the characters are a bit contrived, the script does contain a few good snippets of dialogue. The film could have easily done without the numerous Pretty Woman allusions (such as the “Julia-is-not-allowed-to-shop” scene). There are enough comparisons in this movie without having to make them overt.

Runaway Bride is a slight, but enjoyable romantic comedy, coasting along on the strength of its stars rather than an inner merit. Julia Roberts may be, but Runaway Bride is no Pretty Woman.

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