Most people have skeletons in their closets. Jane, she has dresses.
There are 27 of 'em, to be exact—all hideous, once-worn bridesmaid dresses. And if this were a different sort of film, one might expect these dresses to multiply and morph, eventually attacking poor, unsuspecting Jane in a diabolical taffeta frenzy.
But 27 Dresses is not that sort of film. It is a romantic comedy, and as such, the dresses hang limply in the closet until someone decides to take them out, put them on or throw them away. The thing is, they're too ugly to be worn again—at least out in public—but Jane is too sentimental to chuck them. She loves being a bridesmaid, and the dresses are poufy reminders of all the good times she's had helping others fulfill their wedding-day dreams.
Jane's not so thrilled about adding a 28th to her collection, though. Her boss, George—to whom Jane has been secretly attracted for years—is getting married to her blond, gorgeous and conniving little sister, Tess. Jane is, of course, expected to organize everything, just like she always does. But under the circumstances, she relishes the idea about as much as a pickle, mayonnaise and Skittles sandwich.
Kevin's not helping matters much, either. He's a hunky-yet-cynical newspaper reporter who's covering the wedding for the New York Journal's "Commitments" page. Endearing in an obnoxious sort of way, Kevin "steals" Jane's day planner, rips a week or so out of it and then—in permanent marker—schedules himself onto every Saturday for the rest of the year. Could it be he's fishing for more than just a story?
You've heard of the Golden Rule, right? Jane holds it close to her heart, particularly when it comes to weddings. From the time she was 8, she's been the wind beneath many a bride's wings, taking care of little details like ordering cakes, selecting wedding-day dinners and even standing in for last-minute gown fittings.
She's not some long-suffering martyr, though. Sure, she hopes that "someday all these people will be there for me," but she also loves weddings. She cuts out stories from the "Commitments" page, gets bulk discounts from caterers and just can't get enough of the Macarena. She is joyfully fulfilling one of her true callings—making other people happy—and in so doing, she finds happiness herself. Finding one's calling has a way of doing that.
She takes marriage very seriously, too. When Kevin says that marriages only have a 50-50 shot at working out, Jane retorts with, "Marriage is not easy. Cynicism always is."
[Spoiler Warning] Jane suffers deeply when Tess hastily hooks up with George, but she gamely plows ahead in her designated role, telling her sister that she only wants her to be happy. But when she realizes that Tess has built her relationship with George on a foundation of falsehood—that she's a vegetarian, that she loves animals, etc.—Jane puts her foot down and proceeds to break the couple apart. She goes about it in a hurtful way, but she loves George—and her sister—too much to let them marry under false pretenses. "You cannot start a relationship on lies," she says.
Both her patience and her principles are rewarded in the end: She marries a man who adores her for who she is, not just what she does, and 29 bridesmaids (including her sister, with whom she has reconciled) line up beside her for the ceremony.
While Jane's the beating heart of 27 Dresses, the other characters are also multidimensional, fully functioning humans. There are no vile villains here for viewers to mock—only flawed souls who sometimes make bad decisions and, by the end of the film, take a step or two closer to healing and happiness.
Even Tess eventually admits to Jane that she lied to George because, "I was trying to be someone who deserved him. ... I was trying to be you." A year after their breakup, Tess meets George again, and she introduces herself as if it's the first time, 'fessing up that she eats a hamburger a day.
Being about weddings and all, 27 Dresses spends quite a bit of time within the confines of various places of worship. It opens inside a church dedicated to St. Thomas, where an 8-year-old Jane helps a frantic bride patch up a wedding dress with a bit of purple ribbon. Later, we see grown-up Jane taking part in a Hindu/Jewish ceremony, wearing a paste-on bindi (dot) on her forehead. Jane also reads a celebratory toast that says Tess and George's pairing must have been "designated by the gods."
Jane tells Kevin that she doesn't mind being in the background at weddings. "It's their day, not mine," she says. "God bless you," Kevin responds (with a heavy dollop of sarcasm). When he asks Jane whether she has any needs of her own, she deadpans, "No, I don't. I'm Jesus."
Kevin and Jane have an apparent sexual encounter in a Volvo when they get stuck in a rainstorm. They kiss passionately and try to take off one another's clothes as they tumble into the back seat. They kiss at other times during the film, too, as do George and Jane.
When Tess comes back from her first date with George, she suggests to Jane that it wasn't all just drinks and smiles. We later see Tess and George making out in Jane's apartment.
Tess, Jane and other women wear clothing that exposes lots of leg and/or cleavage. Jane changes clothes several times in the back of a cab and, while audiences don't see anything below her bare shoulders, the cab driver takes a peek every now and then. (Jane tells the man that each look'll cost him $20.)
A boy who's about 11 years old tells George that Tess looks "hot." But it's Jane's friend, Casey, who is the movie's fount of sexual shockers. She says, for instance, that the only reason to put on one of those ghastly bridesmaid dresses is the thought that, later, a willing groomsman might "rip it to shreds with his teeth." When Jane receives flowers from a secret admirer, Casey says, "I spent two days in bed with a guy and you get flowers. Great." She jokingly encourages Jane to seduce her boss and have an "accidental pregnancy, a shotgun wedding and a lifetime of bliss." And about being appreciated, she quips, "What good is it if no one is naked?"
A colleague wonders why Kevin isn't "getting laid," what with all the romantic copy he writes. Jane sarcastically tells someone she's OK with not getting married before her little sister because that allows her to have "hate sex" with random men. And there are other scattered crudities revolving around sexual anatomy and predicaments.
Three Stooges style, Casey slaps Jane to knock her out of a twitterpated reverie over George. Jane slaps Kevin for being a jerk. Tess throws cleaning sponges at Jane for embarrassing her. Jane and Kevin hydroplane off a wet road in a Volvo.
Tess, as a girl, is shown in a slideshow tormenting a cat by holding it upside down. Kevin tells Jane that she's repressing her emotions and is just one party away from shooting herself.
Crude or Profane Language
There are two might-as-well-go-ahead-and-say-it near-uses of the f-word. Jane pairs the obscenity with "mother" (and we hear pretty much everything but the "k"). In another, a bride starts saying the word.
Nearly 10 s-words and an unhealthy smattering of milder cusswords, including "a--" and "b--ch," are stirred into the stew. And God's name is misused nearly two-dozen times. (After listening to one bride swearing up a storm, Jane—as a little girl—assures her it's OK. "We have cable," she says confidently.)
Drug and Alcohol Content
Kevin and Jane get good and drunk one rainy night and belt out a rollicking version of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" while standing on top of the bar. Jane and Casey are shown drinking, presumably, mixed beverages at a nightclub. Jane says she gives couples memberships to a "Wine of the Month Club" as wedding presents, adding that she occasionally gets free Gewürztraminer out of the deal.
Other Negative Elements
Tess fibs constantly, but 27 Dresses doesn't sanction her behavior. Nor does it smile on the mean-spirited way Jane finally puts Tess in her place.
"If it was the right thing to do, you'd feel better right now," Casey tells Jane.
But it does take a wink-and-nudge approach to Kevin's less-than-wholesome relationship with Jane's day planner. Though he doesn't really steal the thing, he doesn't return it as he should. Instead, he uses it to pitch a self-serving story idea to his editor, as well as using it to toy with Jane by marking it up and ripping pages out of it.
"Please find someone else to be creepy with," Jane tells him ... shortly before falling for him.
One of the "details" Jane takes care of for brides is helping them go to the bathroom with their gowns billowing around them.
Penned by Aline Brosh McKenna (who also wrote the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada), 27 Dresses is a sassy, sometimes crass, sometimes poignant celebration of marriage. It's got foul language. It's got inappropriate sex. It's got drunken karaoke. But it doesn't confuse carnal relations with committed relationships, and that in itself is fairly refreshing in a cinematic world most often devoted to brainless, lesson-less Will Ferrell or Vince Vaughn comedies.
When they first meet, Kevin tells Jane that "believing in marriage is like believing in Santa Claus." It's a hypocritical spectacle, this "last legal form of slavery," he says, the sole purpose of which appears to be to prop up a battalion of overpaid wedding planners, event caterers and cake decorators. It rarely lasts, so what's the point?
Statistics suggest that a growing number of Americans agree with Kevin—their actions showing that they somehow believe marriage is an old-fashioned idea with little relevance in today's changing culture. According to a report from Rutgers University, the percentage of folks getting married has been nearly cut in half since 1970. And the number of cohabiting couples has jumped from half a million to nearly 5.5 million in that same time period.
Jane doesn't buy it. She absolutely refuses to give up on her conviction that weddings—those celebrations that can be solemn, spiritual and whimsical all at once—are an acknowledgement of the power of love, and a promise to forever nurture, foster and celebrate that love.
In the end, even Kevin understands. And that's no laughing matter for a comedy these days.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Katherine Heigl as Jane; James Marsden as Kevin; Edward Burns as George; Malin Akerman as Tess
Anne Fletcher ( )
20th Century Fox