It's not difficult to figure out what motivated Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall to team up for another crack at the Prince Charming story. Consider that in 1990, their work in "Pretty Woman" convinced nine-year-old girls everywhere that the path to happiness was to blow rich guys for money. Now, nine years later, these little victims are 18, hooked on drain cleaner, and calling home only to scream that it's 3 am, their pimp has a knife and he's kicking down the door. All it took was one producer to get them all in the same room and say, "Hey, we all loved 'Pretty Woman,' but you do realize that you're going to be chowing some major demon penis in hell because of it, don't ya?"
As such, "Runaway Bride" is kind of a "mea culpa" from a Hollywood trio that would now claim to know better. The first two acts are essentially the same story: Lost girl Maggie (Julia Roberts) meets suave urbanite rich guy Ike (Richard Gere). She rides around in his hot car. There's an exchange of money. She learns to express herself through assertive shopping. In the meantime, he learns both his credit limit and the power of love. The hook is provided by Maggie's reputation for jilting fiancés at the altar (expressed in the form of ever-more-hilarious "leftover cake" jokes), and Gere's ironic attempts to tackle the role of a poorly-written writer. Case in point: His cat is named "Italics."
Movies of this type are not unlike watching programs on the "Lifetime" network. Should I have the misfortune of alighting on one, I can't get the slightest bit into the story because all I can picture are couchloads of desperately lonely women on the other side of the screen, gulping down facile emotional platitudes like so many Dove bars. In my screening, when the camera passed over a trio of triplets dressed in matching purple outfits, the women in the audience rang forth in a uniform "coooooo!" that sounded like 300 biological clocks jangling in unison. They could have sold vials of Richard Gere's sperm at the concession stand and made more than the box office.
"Runaway Bride" tries to redeem itself -- and the eternal fate of its creators -- by ending with a clumsy attempt to convince us that female leads like Julia really can demonstrate free will. This is supposedly exemplified by a little speech she gives toward the end to demonstrate her initiative. If you're unlucky enough not to have already fled the theater, pause to consider the source of that speech. You'll see that in Hollywood, black is always white, and its resident weasels can never, ever be trusted.
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