When Tori Spelling is the best thing about a movie, you know you're in trouble. That's a little unfair, considering how naturally the former child nonstar has morphed from critics' punching bag to gay icon, but that's the undeniable feeling after watching her try unsuccessfully to salvage the gay romantic comedy Kiss the Bride.
The movie comes off as what it was: the product of a lab experiment. C. Jay Cox (Latter Days) directs Ty Lieberman's script, which was nurtured at the Outfest's Screenwriting Lab and bears all the marks (clichés, forced plot twists, etc.) of a story that felt too many hands upon it.
Gay-lifestyle magazine editor Matt (Philipp Karner, a dead ringer for Edward Burns) answers an invitation to the wedding of his old high school pal and former lover Ryan (James O'Shea), who's actually marrying a woman, Alex (Spelling).
Matt never got over the small-town love he left behind for California's greener pastures, and, about to exit relationship No. 34, decides to break up the nuptials à la My Best Friend's Wedding.
That one of the characters in the film even name-checks the romantic comedy shouldn't let Kiss the Bride off the hook. Gay cinema should be mature enough by now to create its own original premises, but Cox and Lieberman can't resist using tired clichés and poorly executed comic bits to move the story along toward its inevitable "surprise" ending. (Hint: It takes place on the altar, and features no fewer than three monologues!)
There are moments when the dialogue settles down into actual adult conversation, particularly between Matt and Alex, who, like the real-life Spelling, proves more charming and likable than cynics might suspect.
But every time the two male leads try to get serious, the filmmakers' clumsy comedy routines get in the way, whether it's Matt being mistaken for a male stripper upon stumbling into Alex's bachelorette party, or the dim-witted homophobia of Ryan's two groomsmen. Despite the presence of vets such as Tess Harper, Robert Foxworth and Joanna Cassidy (playing a horny cougar, of all things), Kiss the Bride can't rise above its amateurish foundation.
Kiss the Bride 2 stars Directed by C. Jay Cox. Stars Philipp Karner, Tori Spelling. Rated R. Opens Fri., May 16. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.
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