Let’s talk about kooky filmographies. Underrated heartthrob James Marsden has perhaps the strangest set of characters under his belt. He’s been the superhero (the X-Men franchise); the android (Westworld); the other man (The Notebook, Enchanted, Superman Returns); the… guy who hangs out with CGI animals (Hop, Sonic the Hedgehog, Enchanted yet again); and the singing oddball (Hairspray, Enchanted once more), to name a few. This month alone, we’re witnessing quite a renaissance of Marsden Material. He’s reprising his role in the third season of Netflix’s Dead to Me as the goofy Ben Wood, as well as returning to play the glorious Prince Edward in Disney’s Enchanted sequel, Disenchanted. Looking at his versatile albeit unusual acting resume, it’s clear that Marsden can do just about anything, which makes it all the more disappointing that he’s only ever done one (!) romantic comedy. But oh, what a rom-com it was!
Anne Fletcher’s 27 Dresses centers around Jane Nichols (beloved rom-com royalty Katherine Heigl herself), who is constantly putting other people’s needs before her own. As a hopeless romantic with a penchant for weddings, she’s been a bridesmaid 27 times. The film’s opening sequence sees Jane going back and forth between two weddings on the same night, where she piques the curious interest of Kevin Doyle (Marsden), a cynical wedding journalist tired of covering the Commitments section of The New York Journal. During a shared cab ride home, the two bicker over their contradicting views on love before parting their separate ways. But wait! Jane accidentally leaves her convoluted day planner behind, which Kevin peeks through and notices her shocking number of weddings lined up. In hopes to leave the wedding circuit behind, Kevin decides to secretly write a piece about Jane as the “perennial bridesmaid,” completely unbeknownst to her.
Meanwhile, Jane has spent years in hopeless unrequited love with her boss, George (Edward Burns). Things get especially complicated when her bratty little sister Tess (Malin Akerman) returns to town and stirs up a heated romance with George. The icing on the horrible wedding cake is Tess and George’s quick engagement, and Jane is tasked with the miserable job as her maid of honor. Kevin, under the guise of covering Tess’s wedding, becomes quite close with Jane, and the two quickly develop feelings for one another in silly, formulaic rom-com fashion.
The real magic of 27 Dresses lies in its casting. If we’re being honest, there’s nothing that special about Kevin. He’s just a guy, really, and quite a nosy one at that. On paper, his character looks no different from the many romantic comedies from the 2000s that all illustrate the grumpy cynic. But Marsden approaches Kevin with such a comfortable charm that it’s impossible not to melt. Near the beginning of the film, Jane accidentally hits her head while trying to catch a bouquet. When she opens her eyes, we’re caught with a breathtaking shot of Marsden’s beautiful face. I mean, his cheekbones! The tousled brown hair! Those gorgeous blue eyes! It’s truly an incredible introduction to our beloved male lead.
Romantic comedies are only successful if their leads work in tandem. The chemistry between Heigl and Marsden is what skyrockets the film from kind-of-okay to complete and utter perfection. During one of my favorite movie montages of all time, Kevin convinces Jane to try on all 27 of her atrocious bridesmaids dresses (“What the hell is that?” “Theme wedding!” “What was the theme, humiliation?”). Set to the cheerful tune of “Lady West” by Jamie Scott and The Town, we’re given a rare glimpse at Jane completely letting her guard down, laughing as she spins around in a variety of colorful garb. Kevin is active and engaging, taking silly pictures of her while she shares the riveting backstories behind each bizarro wedding.
Of course, we can’t talk about 27 Dresses without mentioning the iconic “Bennie and the Jets” moment. At this point, Kevin and Jane have spent most of their time disagreeing about their stances on weddings, though they have somehow forged a strange connection in the midst of her chaotic wedding duties. During a specific errand in upstate New York, the duo butt heads in a particularly heated argument where Kevin calls out her hopeless crush on George. After their car breaks down in the pouring rain, they stumble into refuge at a local bar, where they drunkenly belt the incorrect lyrics to Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” for everyone to hear.
And in a rare moment of vulnerability, Kevin—in a beautifully drenched and inebriated state—confesses that he “cried like a baby at the Keller wedding.” The result is positively swoonworthy.
It’s unfathomable then, perhaps even disrespectful, that someone as talented and handsome as James Marsden hasn’t starred in more romantic comedies. 27 Dresses is proof that Marsden has the cheeky wit and movie star looks to thrive in the aforementioned genre. Not to mention, he’s only gotten more attractive with age. Does that even happen with actors anymore? But I digress. So while I lament over Marsden’s sheer lack of leading man romance material, at least we can enjoy the silly little antics he continues to get up to.
Dianna Shen is an entertainment writer based in New York. When she’s not crying over a rom-com, she can be found on Twitter @ddiannashen.