Rated PG - Running Time: 1:56 - Released 7/30/99

I recently said Garry Marshall belongs behind the camera, not in front of it. I've changed my mind; he belongs nowhere near the camera.

Since Runaway Bride is directed by Marshall and stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, it's natural to compare it to their previous shared project, Pretty Woman. However, while that film presented a story that went down smoothly and sparked with Roberts's charm and energy, Runaway Bride shows nothing but two tired actors putting in time. In a film with an altogether stupid premise and pathetically unfunny dialogue, Roberts and Gere seem to be in a contest to see who can look more bored. They both lost; it was me.

Maggie Carpenter (Roberts) is a woman whose fear of commitment is so great she has left her last three fiancés at the altar, and her latest nuptial bolt has drawn the attention of misogynistic USA Today columnist Ike Graham (Gere). He goes on assignment to her small town of Hale, Md., to find that she's engaged to groom #4. Sure that she'll exit the church before saying "I do," Ike makes camp and befriends the local townsfolk.

He meets all three previous intendeds and many other friends and family of Maggie's, and through sharp investigative journalism, discovers that she didn't really love any of the previous guys. She has made the mistake of trying to mold herself to what they expected of her, but Ike knows she just needs someone who will love her for what she is. Then they look into each other's eyes and — no, no, I won't give it away.

This story idea is stupid enough as it is, but the script, written by the team of Sara Parriott and Josann McGibbon, with help from Audrey Wells, is so full of trite humor that it astounds me it was written after 1975. There's the football coach character who cannot utter a sentence without making some idiotic sports analogy. There's the supposedly homemade wedding video that cuts back and forth between a half dozen camera angles, including a crane shot. And then there's the scene where Ike's car stalls (on a dark road with Maggie in the passenger seat) because he — get this — didn't know it was supposed to take unleaded gas. Really, now, can you even buy leaded gasoline anymore?

There's a slight twist near the end that is supposed to make us all say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming," but all it really does is prolong the time until we can get in our cars and try to shake off the embarassment of paying to get into the thing. Gere and Roberts are the dullest I've ever seen them, and director Marshall doesn't seem to know whether this is supposed to be a romance or a slapstick comedy. Marshall has had plenty of successes in his day; Beaches was good, and Pretty Woman was enjoyable, but after his two latest films (this and The Other Sister), I think it's time for him to hang up the ol' megaphone.

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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