Don't look for credibility; this is a fairy tale that correctly insists on sprinkling fairy dust on a large number of endearing oddballs.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Runaway Bride may have many moments that are too cute, too strained in reaching for laughs, but Julia Roberts and Richard Gere lift the material far above what it actually is. Ms. Roberts, following her terrific performance in Notting Hill, continues to hold audiences with that great old-fashioned star virtue-mystery. No amount of press coverage ever reveals what it is that makes this actress tick, with the delightful result that we never know quite what to expect from her on screen.

Mr. Gere's gray hair and multiple smile lines endow him now with the look of a man gentled down, ready to play romantic comedy without ego. He and the quirky Ms. Roberts lead a game cast through director Garry Marshall's merry movie.

Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) returned to her small hometown to run the family hardware business after her mother's death. She can fix nearly anything that breaks except her own love life. After stranding three grooms at the altar, Maggie has become the stuff of legend and laughter among the townspeople, who love her nonetheless. As her grandmother says so wisely, "There are reasons there have been three weddings and no 'I do's'." Figuring that one out is the fun of the film.

Ike Graham (Richard Gere) is an over-the-hill columnist for USA Today who writes nastily about women: "Why shouldn't I? They're all there-the mother, the virgin, the crone, the whore." When a barfly tells him Maggie's story, the now lazy Ike writes an inaccurate column without bothering to check his facts and ends up on the street, fired by his boss, Ellie (Rita Wilson), who happens to be his ex-wife.

On the theory that even if the facts of the story are wrong, the theory is right, Ike leaves New York to find Maggie. He finds her engaged to marry Bob (Christopher Meloni), a neat caricature of the small-town football coach who relentlessly pursues his one-dimensional dreams. He has climbed Everest twice, "without oxygen," and is taking Ellie to climb Annapurna on their honeymoon.

We know where all this is going, of course, but the fun is in the trip with a good-natured cast of loony characters. Joan Cusack, intelligent and zany as always, stops the movie cold with a moment of genuine reflection on the plight of a married woman whose sense of mystery has been diminished by daily life. Rita Wilson infuses her part with genuine goodwill toward her ex-husband. There are no mean people in this movie.

Julia Roberts is terrific as Maggie--creating big moments for herself, trying to design her life on a wider canvas than the one she has at hand. If you've ever wanted to run away from anything in your life, enjoy Maggie's metaphorical escape in a cloud of wedding white across an endless field of green. Don't look for credibility; this is a fairy tale that correctly insists on sprinkling fairy dust on a large number of endearing oddballs.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG
Running time : 1h56m

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