By Thom Yee

Runaway Bride images courtesy of Paramount Pictures

After watching Runaway Bride, I can tell you that there are only two things that I’m certain of:

  1. Runaway Bride is a movie that was released in 1999.

Runaway Bride is a movie.  I’m certain it is a movie.  I’m certain it is a movie and I don’t think it ever lets you forget that it is a movie.  I’m certain it is a movie and that its writers, producers, directors, cast, set designers, makeup people, second unit directors, and various other hangers on know it is a movie.  I’m certain it is a movie and that the characters are, on some level, consciously aware that they are in a movie.  It couldn’t be anything other than a movie.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I was forced to watch Runaway Bride for a screenwriting course I’m taking.  I don’t want you to think that I pick out movies to review for the classics section just to rip them apart.

So New York-based columnist Ike Graham (Richard Gere) haphazardly writes a poorly sourced article on Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts), a small-town girl famous for having left seven or eight grooms at the altar.  He’s promptly fired from his job with USA Today, but is then commissioned to write a follow-up article, both as a correction and to see how this runaway bride’s latest wedding goes.  I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that, despite Maggie already being betrothed to another (it doesn’t matter who or what), she ends up with Ike.

Throughout most of Runaway Bride, it was almost impossible to not see almost every single thing telegraphed before it happened.  I’m never going to tell you that you or I should expect something unexpected or unusual in a romantic comedy, but it’s hard to believe that something so predictable was ever produced.

Of course Gere plays a columnist in New York with a dim view of women.  Of course Julia plays a small-town girl with an enchanting effect on men.  Of course he’s divorced.  Of course she feels trapped in her small town.  Of course he has another job as soon as he’s fired.  Of course her family and friends immediately let Ike into every aspect of Maggie’s life.  Of course he has few personal friends. Of course her current fiancé isn’t right for her.  Of course Maggie’s grandmother makes a lewd comment about Ike in that way that old people are funny in movies.  Of course she tells her previous almost husbands not to talk to Ike, but they’ve all already talked, and of course one of those times Ike’s even right there as she tells one of those almost husbands not to talk, but in a way that’s cutely off screen until the fact that he’s already there is revealed and she feels even more embarrassed.

Despite this predictability, there were two things about the movie that did surprise me:

  • I remember, quite distinctly the first time I checked how much longer the movie was and being utterly shocked that only 45 minutes had passed.  “How could this be?” I ponderously exclaimed aloud as I was quite sure it had been at least 90 minutes.  The further into the movie I got, the more frequently I found myself checking how much of the movie was left, each time falling further and further into despair as I realized how thoroughly Runaway Bride had distorted my usually strong sense of time’s passage.
  • When I looked up when this movie was made, I was surprised that it was as late as 1999.  Runaway Bride really feels like it belongs in the 1980s, alongside such luminary romantic comedies as Rhinestone, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, and Mannequin (that means it’s bad, though I personally never saw what was so wrong with Rhinestone).

Julia running away again, hopefully to a better movie.

I’m pretty sure the theme of Runaway Bride is finding what you’re looking for.  As you watch the film, you can tell that Maggie feels a little trapped, and that her succession of previous potential husbands (of which there are actually only three) just weren’t who she was looking for.  Also, the film opens with U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, and for many viewers, I’m sure that was also a great help for overall comprehension.

The funny thing about Runaway Bride is that, despite being utterly, insufferably, and all-consumingly predictable (even in the face of the logic that would prevent such contrived situations from occurring), once the movie gets to about the halfway point, it becomes unusually erratic and almost hard to predict, simply because of how implausible the situation has become.  Rather than quickly seeing where things are going, I started thinking to myself, “they can’t do that… they couldn’t be going for that… that couldn’t have just happened.”

The movie quickly shifts from staid predictability to heavy-handed implausibility as Ike and Maggie start falling for each other, Maggie decides not to marry her betrothed, her betrothed almost instantly starts finding other potential brides (and doesn’t mind Maggie dumping him), and before we know it, we find ourselves at the wedding of Ike and Maggie.  I guess at some point the producers decided to make the leap from predictable romantic comedy to directly insulting its audience’s intelligence(s).

I told you at the beginning that one thing I’m certain of is:

  1. Runaway Bride is a movie that was released in 1999.

But as I said, there are only two things I’m certain of:

  1. Runaway Bride is a movie that was released in 1999.
  2. And it was the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

Runaway Bride final score: 1

On the Edge

  • I should qualify the statement “worst movie I’ve ever seen” with the disclaimer that most of the movies I’ve seen are ones I saw voluntarily.  So to be fair, even though it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, I would have to admit that I mostly watch good movies.  Or at least movies with redeeming value(s).
  • I don’t get why the hotel guy was playing Virtual Boy, a device discontinued in 1996.  As inconsequential as this may seem, it really feels like just another element of the movie that shows the producers really didn’t care.  I suppose that nothing’s specifically saying that the movie takes place in 1999, but even in the year after its release (1995), no one was playing Virtual Boy.