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Kiss the Bride (February 1/05)

Amanda Detmer is one of those familiar actresses who seems to pop up in a lot of forgettable films, usually trapped within the confines of a thankless role (ie a best friend, a jilted best friend, etc). But with Kiss the Bride, Detmer delivers an eye-opening performance that's best described as star-making; forced to run the gamut of emotions, the actress does an exceedingly credible job of portraying a nice girl who finally has enough of her family's dysfunctional antics.

Kiss the Bride revolves around Danisa (Detmer) and Geoff's (Johnathon Schaech) impending wedding, an event that seems to be doubling as a family reunion - bringing together Danisa's disparate sisters, in addition to a wide range of assorted relatives. It's clear that Danisa hasn't seen her siblings in a while, and for good reason - the four begin bickering almost immediately. Each sister has their own little quirk that seems to frustrate the others: Chrissy (Vanessa Parise) is a high-powered Wall Street type who is short on patience; Niki's (Brooke Langton) role in a Baywatch ripoff has disappointed her family and friends; and Toni (Monet Mazur) is a rebel who's decided to surprise everyone by arriving with her new girlfriend (played by Alyssa Milano) in tow.

As expected, Kiss the Bride doesn't contain much in the way of plot; instead, it's the characters that propel the story forward. It's to writer/director Parise's credit that she's able to make all of this seem fresh, despite the fact that this is the sort of tale we've seen countless times before (ie My Big Fat Greek Wedding). But unlike that film, which was peppered with stereotypes and over-the-top gags, Kiss the Bride features an assortment of characters that feel authentic. And though it's easy enough to predict the outcome of some of their individual storylines - ie Niki just happens to run into her old, ultra-sensitive boyfriend, something that doesn't bode well for her relationship with her current, jerky boyfriend - Parise does such an effective job of establishing all these characters, it's easy enough to overlook such minor deficiencies.

Along with Parise's seemingly natural gift for penning unaffected dialogue, Kiss the Bride is peppered with several better-than-expected performances. Detmer is the standout, obviously, but Mazur and Langton are just as compelling (something that's particularly surprising in respect to the latter, who has never even hinted at this level of ability). Parise's screenplay offers virtually every single character at least one great scene, ie Danisa receives a frank sex talk from her mother (played by Talia Shire) and Toni receives a brutal dressing-down from her girlfriend during a very public breakup. The actors are certainly all up to the challenge, and even performers saddled with barely-developed characters (Schaech and Sean Patrick Flanery, playing Niki's love interest, are the two most notable example of this) fare reasonably well.

Kiss the Bride is one of those rare movies that leaves the viewer wanting more after the credits have rolled (ie it's impossible not to wonder just what's going to happen to these characters), and though this is the kind of flick that will undoubtedly be labeled a "chick flick," there's certainly enough here to appeal to a broader audience than just the fairer sex.

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About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Kiss the Bride with a crisp letterboxed transfer, along with cast and crew interviews with the key players (a trailer is also included).
© David Nusair