Here comes the bride(smaid)

“27 Dresses” is a cute, if clich

Seated at her elementary school desk, the most charming, picture-perfect little girl endlessly daydreams about her wedding day. Her multiplication table is left blank. Her hair is curled in shining ringlets; patent leather shoes glint on her feet. Her dreams are draped by glimmering folds of wedding dresses still hanging on the racks in the salon. Maybe she fancies a princess-worthy ball gown with a hooped skirt large enough to house a small village, festooned with fripperies and sprinkled with sparkling sequins. Or perhaps something simpler, maybe a sleek satin bias-cut creation with a train and small veil.

“27 Dresses”

Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden
Directed by: Anne Fletcher
Rated: PG-13
Playing: Area Theaters

After deciding what she’d like to don on the most important day of her life, the little girl contemplates what she’d like to dress her best friends and future bridesmaids in. Something sort of pretty, she thinks, but not too pretty. The bridesmaids are there just to highlight the bride, not upstage her.

Such is the premise of the latest wedding-centered rom-com, “27 Dresses,” which follows frothy flicks like “The Wedding Planner,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and “The Wedding Singer” down the aisle of movie matrimony.

The film centers on Jane, (Katherine Heigl, who has had her butterscotch locks dyed a blasé brown in an effort to

create the illusion of a “Plain Jane” from this Amazonian bombshell) who loves nothing more than the ceremony celebrating the deep love between two people. She’s been a bridesmaid 27 times – yes, 27 – and she’s got the dresses to prove it.

Jane is the kind of girl you wish was your best friend: accommodating, supportive, willing to go that extra mile for anyone, anytime. Basically, Jane can’t say “no.” However, when her gorgeous, spoiled (and blonde) younger sister (Malin Akerman) gets engaged to the love of Jane’s life, everyone’s favorite doormat has to learn to follow her obliging heart and stand up for herself.

Of course, Jane has a little help from her slutty, sassy best friend Casey (Judy Greer, who’ll be the smart-ass sidekick for life) and the oh-so-charming Kevin (yummy dreamboat James Marsden), a reporter stuck writing for the Commitments section of his newspaper. And so, for the duration of the film, the audience follows the lovable “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” on her journey to bliss.

Predictable, yes. Like any good romantic comedy, the viewer has the entire plot figured out in the first 20 minutes. (Even the trailer gives away quite a bit.)

But “27 Dresses” is also completely harmless, best enjoyed with a pack of girlfriends and three boxes of Sour Patch Kids to counteract all the sweetness. (Or rather in the manner the chick-flick industry seems to promote: on the couch in sweatpants with the company of two dudes named Ben & Jerry.) The film doesn’t break any boundaries or cross any taboo lines; just like a bridesmaid, it does what it’s told and creates a pretty, enjoyable atmosphere.

“27 Dresses” would fall into the backdrop like an unattractive guest at an extravagant wedding if not for its two stars, Heigl and Marsden. Heigl is secure in the spotlight and just sarcastic and level-headed enough to be the perfect fluff heroine; anyone cutesy-adorable like Mandy Moore or Reese Witherspoon would have been cotton candy overload. Marsden, of course, is cinema-idol gorgeous and destined to inherit the chick flick throne from predecessors such as Richard Gere and Patrick Swayze. But that’s okay, because he brings a wryness to his characters that makes them all the more deliciously crush-worthy, so bring on the rom-coms. They’re no Hepburn and Tracy, but Heigl and Marsden have a witty banter-fueled chemistry that endears their characters to the audience.

The problem with “27 Dresses” is that in its attempt to satire the ridiculousness of the wedding industry (the over-the-top ceremonies, the extreme expenses), it also perpetuates the myth that a woman’s ultimate goal to find satisfaction in life is tying the knot. Jane is given much sympathy for the fact that she’s in her late 20s and unmarried. You can look past it, of course, but “27 Dresses” is goo-goo for wedding gush. Take it with a grain of salt – or rice, perhaps.

But in the midst of this ’50s era idea that a wedding is the be-all and end-all to absolute womanhood, a redeeming quality of “27 Dresses” is that it wants so badly to believe in love.

With the divorce rate only increasing as the years pass, a movie with such an optimistic heart and such unabashed faith in true romance is sweet, not to mention perfect viewing for a love-centric holiday in the

foreseeable future.