RATING |

"Bride Wars" is a retrograde comedy that makes women look like shallow, scheming, selfish creatures who worship consumerism and fret about their hips.

That's not a revelation or a warning. That's how it's being pitched. The promise of a Bridezilla versus Megawedding horror show is precisely what makes it so irresistible to the wedding-movie core constituency.

Behavioral science now understands and concedes that there is no stopping the wedding movie; there is no way to exhaust the genre, no variation or incarnation too tiresome for the devotee.

So enjoy. The rest of us - movie critics and boyfriends dragged at the point of a loaded gun to this thing - are left to ponder the over/under on the use of the words "Vera Wang." (It's roughly 10.)

"Bride Wars" stars Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson as best friends who share a dream - to be married in June at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. They get engaged the same week, then inadvertently book weddings on the same day. The friends become rivals, each determined to destroy the other woman's wedding, if not the bride herself.

Director Gary Winick throws PC caution to the wind - no joke is too tasteless, or too broad, pardon the pun. One women is sabotaged in a tanning salon, the other has her dyed blue, etc. Then, at the point of complete mutual destruction, the movie becomes sentimental, and we get the inevitable (unconvincing) lesson on the value of friendship.

Reconciliation is meant to carry the day, but lurking around the edges of the movie is a current of real cynicism. "Bride Wars" pauses to glance at the women who form the brides' circle of friends, and they are are a lonely, desperate, envious, grasping lot.

There is no regard for marriage, only a mercenary desire for a spectacular ceremony - a one-day orgy of self-absorption meant to compensate a woman for a lifetime of boredom, misery and neglect.

And wedding movies. *

Produced by Kate Hudson, Alan R*che, Peter R*che and Jul*e Yom, d*rected by Gary W*n*ck, wr*tten by Greg DePaul, Casey W*lson and June D*ane Raphael, mus*c by Edward Shearmur, d*str*buted by Twent*eth Century Fox.