Ladies, prepare to laugh.
This riotous R-rated offering from producer Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up") and director Paul Feig (creator of TV's "Freaks and Geeks") gives the female of the species the same sort of unapologetic, buddy-based chuckler guys have gotten a dozen times over with films like "Old School" (2003), "Wedding Crashers" (2005) and "The Hangover" (2009).
But it isn't fair to pigeonhole the film based on gender, so we'll state it simply: "Bridesmaids" is the best comedy of 2011 so far.
"Saturday Night Live" co-stars Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph play lifelong BFFs Annie and Lillian, respectively. Annie is going through a bit of a rough patch. Her bakery business has tanked; her roommates are a British brother-sister set with the combined IQ of a fishbowl; and romance comes in the form of shallow sexual trysts with a wealthy womanizer (an uncredited Jon Hamm of TV's "Mad Men" in his smarmiest role yet).
Newly engaged Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honor, a role Annie readily embraces despite her personal woes. Lillian's bridesmaid choices -- four very different women -- ensure anarchy for Annie and hilarity for the audience. Helen (Rose Byrne of "Get Him to the Greek") is a snobby socialite with boundary issues; Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) needs a sabbatical from her lackluster marriage; Becca (Ellie Kemper) is naive to a fault; and Megan (Melissa McCarthy of "Life as We Know It") toes the line between fiercely unabashed and downright vulgar.
Annie's world continues to unravel as she desperately tries to connect with Lillian's bridesmaids and plan pre-wedding events despite Helen's incessant intrusion. But things consistently go awry. A seemingly innocent outing at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant turns disastrous when the women later suffer the effects of food poisoning while trying on bridesmaid's dresses. And Annie wreaks havoc aboard a flight to Las Vegas after popping a couple of pills for anxiety and tossing back a strong drink.
Kudos to Wiig for co-writing the savvy script and proving more than capable of holding her own as a leading lady. Comparisons to "The Hangover" will be common but unfair, as "Bridesmaids" serves up more relationship insight and less buffoonery. The scenes between Wiig and Rudolph are especially fun to watch, as the two actresses share an obvious comfort that is particularly engaging.
But McCarthy's uproarious performance is likely what most viewers will be talking about after the end credits role. Laughs flow freely when McCarthy is on screen, whether she is flirting with an undercover air marshal (played by McCarthy's real-life hubby, Ben Falcone) or having a heart-to-heart with a depressed Annie. Irish-born actor Chris O'Dowd is also a great addition to the cast as Annie's non-sleazy love interest, a pastry-loving police officer.
"Bridesmaids" isn't perfect. The production values, such as sound and lighting, are adequate but not impressive. And a healthy chunk of the humor is raunchy or sexual in nature, which could turn off more conservative viewers. But a witty, perfectly cast comedy rife with insight and light-hearted humor is well worth celebrating. Think of it as a cinematic bouquet -- catch it.