‘Bridesmaids’ is a typical Judd Apatow movie

By now the Judd Apatow method of moviemaking is well-known - assemble a large mass of comedians and start filming.

Thus far he hasn't applied his formula to a large mass of female comics, but as we see in the Apatow-produced "Bridesmaids," it works just as well.

"SNL" headliners Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph are the leads, but "Bridesmaids" assembles an all-star team of women who've worked for years in improv groups such as the Groundlings or Upright Citizens Brigade, then graduated to gigs on "Reno 911" (Wendi McLendon-Covey) or "The Office" (Ellie Kemper) or "Mike & Molly" (Melissa McCarthy).

Of course any time you assemble this many women for a comedy, there has to be a wedding (it's Rudolph's). The bride bestows maid-of-honor duties to Annie (Wiig), inspiring a fit of jealousy in new friend Helen (Rose Byrne).

Annie is single, adrift and underemployed. Helen is married and wealthy, and uses her money and surplus confidence to undermine Annie and win the matron-of-honor title.

This seems a little retrograde, and you hope going into "Bridesmaids" that somehow all this girl power would liberate us from the conniving-women boilerplate that attends wedding movies.

"Bridesmaids" is much funnier when the wedding is sidelined and the women are addressing the other major obstacle in their lives - the male of the species. There's a funny running gag that has Annie ignoring the obvious flaws of her handsome jerk boyfriend (Jon Hamm).

Elsewhere, McLendon-Covey riffs on the perils of being a mother to three teen boys, and McCarthy - the spaced-out Zach Galifianakis of the piece - makes oddball come-ons to terrified men.

"Bridesmaids" is a classic Apatow factory product. There are about a thousand jokes - 70 percent of them are funny - and the movie is 10 minutes too long. It's also gross - poor Rudolph has an attack of dysentery while wearing a designer gown.

The ensemble story eventually zeroes in on Annie, and we watch Wiig make the tricky move from sketch-comedy pro to dramatic actress.

She gets halfway there. The thing that makes Wiig such a unique comic presence is how much she withholds, how she sets her characters at a skewed angle to reality. That makes her funny, and a little hard to read.

She does OK with a budding romance with an attentive cop (Chris O'Dowd), but has her best scenes with Jill Clayburgh, in her final role. Wiig and Clayburgh actually look alike, adding to the believably fraught mother/daughter dynamic, one that suggests years of dysfunction that have led to an amiable truce.


Directed by Paul Feig. With Maya Rudolph, Matt Lucas, Rebel Wilson, Jill Clayburgh, Chris O'Dowd, Kristen Wiig, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper. Distributed by Universal Studios.

Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for some strong sexuality, and language throughout).