Despite two ultra-hot stars, "The Wedding Planner" fails to arouse anything but yawns. 

Fractured Fairy Tale

Although the opening minutes of "The Wedding Planner" offer some hope of the movie being an enjoyable comic confection just in time for Valentine's Day, the painful reality soon sets in. This screwball-romance wannabe quickly deteriorates into a mechanical, by-the-numbers love story, the kind of numbing fluff destined to be shown on airlines. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But when a movie boasts such hotties as Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey, and even they can't figure out a way to make the passion believable, well, something's definitely wrong. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe both McConaughey and Lopez have the charm, good looks and comic ability required for a lighthearted romance. The blame for this insipid mess falls squarely on the shoulders — or uninspired minds — of screenwriters Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis. Their big mistake? Confusing the genre of their story with their approach to the task. Writing a piece of engaging "fluff" is a great deal more difficult than the on-screen results indicate. In the first 15 minutes, Lopez gives off a genuine sweetness and focused energy that makes you believe she's Mary Fiore, an Italian bachelorette who makes a living planning other women's weddings. Unlucky in love, she's come to accept her plight and vows to become tops in her field. As in real life, suspension of belief is required to make any love story work. So let's ignore the obvious concerns about Ms. Lopez ever going months without a date. But then fate — or Cupid — steps in, sending a handsome doctor (McConaughey) to rescue her from the path of a runaway Dumpster. The two spend an enchanted evening together in Golden Gate Park, watching an old movie on an outdoor screen, dancing, and, yes, almost kissing. Mary is completely swept off her feet, though Dr. Steve Edison dances so well she's a little concerned he might be gay. The screenwriters tell us this is a natural assumption since their story is set in San Francisco. Duh. Of course, Dr. Steve also sports suspiciously tight-fitting sweaters and those highlights in his hair certainly look bleached. After their magical night, guess what? Mary finds out that Dr. Steve isn't gay; in fact, he's actually the husband-to-be of her wealthy new client Fran (a type-cast Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). If this weren't enough for poor Mary to contend with, the screenwriters tie her down with a ridiculous subplot: Her well-meaning immigrant father (an irritatingly over-the-top Alex Rocco) has brought over her childhood friend from Sicily to marry her. It should come as no surprise that screenwriters Falk and Ellis pen poor Massimo (played charmingly by Calvin Klein model Justin Chambers) as dimwitted and stereotypical. To Chambers' credit, he almost sends the movie on a surprising new path, but the screenwriters soon remedy that by pulling him off the screen. The rest of "The Wedding Planner" unfolds with uninspired predictability and an incredible lack of chemistry between its star-crossed lovers. Sadly, both Lopez and McConaughey are at their best in scenes with their same-sex best friends. Judy Greer ("What Women Want") is terrific and sassy in the Zazu Pitts/gal-pal role. Kevin Pollak is equally sharp and lively as McConaughey's best man. As comically misguided as its movie, the studio's press kit feels compelled to let us know that first-time screenwriters Falk and Ellis are currently estranged. But, it cheerfully enlightens us, the two are undergoing couples therapy. Perhaps that explains why the best parts of their joint effort occur when the two stars are not together. Which might be OK for a relationship drama, but death for a romance. Save your money, catch this fractured fairy tale on video.


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