Remember the romantic sparks between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman"? In "Runaway Bride" it's more like a damp fizzle. Director Garry Marshall reunites his two stars from the earlier hit but comes up with largely TV material. The principals are as attractive as ever, but how long can a film survive on Roberts' smile and Gere's charm when the plot never rises above the ordinary?
Roberts plays a small-town girl who is the butt of endless jokes because she's bolted from the alter on three separate occasions. Gere plays a big-city newspaper columnist who hears about the "runaway bride" and does an article about her. Unfortunately, he doesn't get all of his facts straight and is summarily fired by his paper.
Question: How many important reporters write a story off-the-cuff without checking their sources? Answer: Maybe a few. Question: How many get fired the next morning by their boss, who just happen to be their ex-wife? Answer: Not many. Question: How many fired reporters would go off to do a freelance piece on the "runaway bride" in question at the behest of their ex-wife's new husband? Answer: Even fewer. Question: How many tough, cynical reporters fall for the subjects of derision of their reports? Answer: This one. Question: How many totally opposite and abrasive people, as the Gere and Roberts characters are, find true happiness together? Answer: None. Question: How realistic is this whole situation? Answer: Not.
Should we care in a romantic comedy that nothing rings true? Should we care that Roberts can get away with dyeing Gere's hair three different colors without his knowing it? Should we care that Joan Cusack as Roberts' best friend has a better part than Roberts? Should we care that the wonderful character actors Hector Elizondo and Paul Dooley are wasted in thankless roles? Should we care that the biggest laughs in the film come when little old ladies objecting to Gere's misogynist viewpoints keep hitting him over the head with rolled-up newspapers? Answer: Yes.
In spite of my reservations, "Runaway Bride" enjoys four major plusses: (1) It is totally inoffensive; (2) it stars two beautiful people; (3) it offers a snippet of the Grateful Dead's "Ripple"; and (4) it features even more of Miles Davis's "It Never Entered My Mind." These credentials cannot be all bad.
The picture quality is excellent. Paramount's widescreen image measures in at a 2.13:1 aspect ratio across the screen. There is some slight color bleed when looked at closely but unnoticeable at most normal viewing distances. Facial tones are a little dark. Mainly, colors are bright and vivid.
The sound comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Surround, the latter the default. Don't you hate it when you've watched half a film before noticing you've forgotten to change the audio setting to DD 5.1? In any case, the sonics are almost nondescript in either mode. In DD 5.1 the stereo spread is wide, the tonal balance is natural, and rear channel effects, though few and far between, are realistic.
The main extras are an audio commentary by director Marshall and a music video, "Ready to Run," by the Dixie Chicks. English and French are the spoken language choices; English is the only subtitle option. Twenty-one scene selections and a theatrical trailer round it out.
There's more friction than fire to "Runaway Bride." It's a hard film to dislike but not one you're apt to watch again. Recommendation: For devoted Gere and Roberts fans only.