The Runaway Bride

on July 30, 1999 by Francesca Dinglasan
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   Nearly nine years after the blockbuster romantic comedy "Pretty Woman" ignited hope in all would-be Cinderellas that Prince Charming did exist after all, the flick's major players have re-teamed to see if boxoffice lightning will strike twice. The resulting effort is "The Runaway Bride," a lighthearted summer release which, like its Julia Roberts/Richard Gere-vehicle predecessor, centers on the unlikely romance that blossoms between the almost too-attractive leads.
   Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter, a small-town repairwoman/lamp designer who has become known as the perpetual bride. Having abandoned three of her weddings at the 11th hour (literally leaving her grooms waiting at their respective altars), her infamy spreads to USA Today reporter Ike Graham (Gere). Ike, who has developed a reputation himself as a bitter, slightly misogynistic columnist, eagerly writes about Maggie's exploits and the wake of brokenhearted men she leaves behind. Maggie, presently in the midst of planning her fourth attempt at nuptials, is infuriated by the article and threatens to sue the newspaper for printing factual inaccuracies. As a result, Ike is fired, and he decides to gain a bit of retribution and prove that he was correct about Maggie's man-devouring ways by venturing to her community to do some investigative reporting on the fickle femme.
   There are relatively few surprises once Ike arrives in town. As expected, he works his way into the homes and hearts of Maggie's family and friends--and eventually wins the affections of the bride-to-be herself. Yet, despite the utterly predictable plotline and the consistently contrived feel of the dialogue, the chemistry between Roberts and Gere is not only out in full "Pretty Woman" force, it's the pic's saving grace. Of course, the script rather intentionally capitalizes on the romantic magic of the 1990 hit, incorporating scenes that recall some of "Pretty Woman's" most famous moments, including a price bidding debate between Gere and Roberts' characters (here it's over her fee for an interview; before, it was over her price as a "companion") as well as Roberts once again confronting a snooty dress shop saleswoman.
   Coming on the heels of Roberts' hit romantic comedy "Notting Hill," "The Runaway Bride" should arouse a good deal of interest from its target audience. However, its true success will be among the most die-hard romantics, who not only waited nine years to see another Roberts/Gere love scene, but also believed that a hooker and a New York banker could live happily ever after. Considering that scenario, a woman-hating journalist and a marriage-fearing small town beauty's burgeoning romance should be a piece of cake to accept. Starring Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Paul Dooley and Christopher Meloni. Directed by Garry Marshall. Written by Josann McGibbon and Sarah Parriott. Produced by Ted Field, Tom Rosenberg, Scott Kroopf and Robert Cort. A Paramount release. Rated PG for mild sexual references. Running time: 111 min
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