Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Runaway Bride

MPAA Rating: PG for language and some suggestive dialogue.

Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Romance Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
1999
USA Release:
July 30, 1999
Copyright, Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Scene from Runaway Bride

Starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Paul Dooley, Christopher Meloni, Reg Rogers, Yul Vazquez | Director: Garry Marshall

Let me ruin the plot for you: the characters played by Julia Roberts and Richard Gere get together by the end of “Runaway Bride”. At first they don’t like each other, but then they do, but then they have to split up, but then they happily get back together. If you feel violated that I’ve given away this bit of information, you’ve obviously never seen a romantic comedy. They may be set in different locales, have characters with different quirks, keep the guy and the girl away in different unique ways, but if you bite down to the core, romantic comedies all use the exact same plot structure. (Yes, yes, I’m quite aware that Roberts' flick “My Best Friend’s Wedding” doesn’t follow the pattern, but can you think of another? I thought not.) In fact, one of the reasons why romantic comedies are so popular is because they’re safe since the audience already has a gut feeling what’s going to happen.

So when judging romantic comedies, there’s one important question: how much fun did we have getting to the inevitable conclusion? And “Runaway Bride”, no matter what other problems it has, is often quite fun. Some of the better scenes border on the just-too-corny side, but they still work: Roberts' character’s first, hippie wedding seen on videotape; a haircut Gere’s character gets just after his arrival in Roberts' character’s hometown; two apartment break-ins for devious purposes; and a throwaway line about UPS. The script, written by the team that did “Three Men and a Little Lady”, is better than it has any right to be considering their track record.

But what makes the film work (when it does work) is the chemistry between Gere and Roberts. Their chemistry was the only thing holding together the overpraised “Pretty Woman”; here, they steal the show. It’s unexplainable why Roberts and Gere work so well together when, in the recent “Notting Hill”, Roberts and Hugh Grant had no romantic energy between them. But let’s face a truth: they do seem completely right for each other, despite any personality conflicts and age difference. And as funny as romantic comedies can often be, the adjective is just as important as the noun.

Other than the nothing-we-can-really-do-about-it plot, the biggest aspect holding down “Runaway Bride” is Director Garry Marshall. In films like “East of Eden” and “The Other Sister”, Marshall has been criticized for being heavy-handed and manipulative, and there are shades of that kind of control here. There is a particularly grating scene toward the end of the movie where Roberts' character and her fiancée are at a wedding rehearsal, and Gere’s character is needed to stand in for the groom. The symbolism should be painfully obvious to anyone, but Marshall nudges us in the ribs by having one of the characters mention this symbolism to us, to make sure we didn’t miss it. If Marshall had taken a more subtle approach, this movie could have been one of the better recent romantic comedies; instead, it remains rather average.

“Runaway Bride” gets its PG rating because it chooses to tell rather than show sexual situations; instead of premarital sex and nudity broadcast on the screen, the characters simply talk about loss of virginity and normally covered body parts. (Much of the talk comes from one of Hollywood’s favorite stock characters: the foul-mouthed elderly woman, more subdued here than usual.) There is also some other foul language. With its treatment of sex and its occasional use of course language, “Runaway Bride” is as appropriate for Christians and children as TV'sFriends” and “Frasier”; those who are unhappy with the content of such programs will face similar emotions watching “Runaway Bride”.

Viewer Comments
This is a movie that is totally inoffensive and very sweet. I thought it was the most enjoyable movie I have seen in quite some time, and look forward to seeing it again. I disagree with the reviewer in regards to profanity, as I only recall the use of one mild word. And I found the scene with the grandmother to be handled very well and to be very funny, even though it was discussing the male sex. I have an 86 year old grandmother who does the same things, a very loving Christian woman, and we don’t raise our eyebrows or wag our fingers at her; we chalk it up to age and enjoy it. Overall, a lovely romantic film. If you go back and watch “Pretty Woman” now, you’ll be shocked at how much is offensive in THAT movie.
—Brian Boguhn, age 34
Great! Stupendous! Marvelous! Best—funniest—cleanest movie we’ve seen this year!
—Sid and Brenda Owens, age 53
Being a 16-year-old teenager, stereotypes would suggest that a “PG” movie would be one that I might not see. Contrary to this stereotype I have seen this movie four times, loving it so much that I had to take all of my friends, including my mom. As a Christian, I felt that for the most part it was a “clean” movie, with wonderful “eye-chemistry” (as my mom calls it) between characters, laughable situations and, of course, a cute ending. In watching, I counted the cases of profanity to report to a friend for whom it was important. In doing so, I counted (contrary to other responses to this movie) five instances, some not as harsh as others, yet still offensive to some (i.e. “bite me” versus “a** h***). Although overlooking the five cases of inappropriate language and the one sexual reference (which has become all to common), this movie was one that I loved seeing four times and will definitely see again. The feel-good feeling that I got every time I left the theater was, to me, worth the $4.50. Although my family teases me about seeing it so many times, I have to admit, I will probably see it again before it comes out on video. I felt, along with my mom, who is also a Christian, that this is a movie that you can pretty much recommend to anyone.
—Kim, age 16
I agree totally that this movie is an entertaining piece of flotsam: pleasent, amusing, with a comely familiarity that’s hard not to like. But I also think it has a truly black hearted morality at its core, a lot like “Meet Joe Black,” similarly a wolf in sheeps clothing. Superficiality and feelings seem to be more important than character and substance. Despite Gere’s character’s reputation as a bit of a selfish sleaze, Julia Roberts seems all too willing to spend oodles of time with him one on one, and has no trouble falling for him despite the fact she doesn’t really know him and is already engaged (yeeech). It seems that once more the “if it feels good do it” mentality is being encouraged. Infatuation and lust are being sold as love in this movie. The attractive package all this was presented in glosses over the true movie. These selfish characters deserve each other, and perversely, all this made me yearn for an Arnie Schwarzenegger action fest. At least with a movie like that what you see is what you get.
—Andrew Thorn, age 32
I also enjoyed the movie, as one of only 5 or 6 men in the crowded theater that my wife and I saw it in—no kidding! While it certainly does not embrace Christianity and religion, it does not mock it either, and there were opportunities during the movie where this could have been done. There’s no premarital sex, very minimal profanity, excessive consumption of alcohol is appropriately condemned, as is making someone the target of public ridicule. So many films today think all of this is cool or acceptable, and they go out of their way to present it in their films in a relativistic way. As Christians, I think we should applaud an essentially secular film going against this tide, which is what Runaway Bride does, even if it’s unintentional. It presents positive messages in an entertaining way…
—Jason, age 28
Dittos to most of the comments, so far. I was thrilled to walk out of a movie and not feel as if I needed a mental and spiritual bath. And, I thought that the institution of marriage was semi-revered! Now, if someone in Hollywood could just be brave enough to make a movie where even virginity is, at least, a possibility, we’d really be making progress! I rarely go to movies, but I WILL see this one again.
—Gloria, age 38
This movie was excellent!! I totally disagree with the reviewer. The movie only had 2 uses of profanity! Several other PG movies I’ve seen (like “While You Were Sleeping,” which I enjoyed, but still) have close to a dozen or more curse words. This movie was a refreshing change. And there was only one inappropriate sexual reference. Watch it!
—Lillian Moore, age 48
I found The Runaway Bride to be refreshingly entertaining. My husband and I found ourselves laughing out loud at some of the humor and felt this one actually lived up to the “hype.” It was generally light-hearted and fun. How nice to be able to sit through a movie and not have to worry about being bombarded with foul language, gratuitous nudity and sexual activity. With all the horrible movies out there aimed at teens [that glorify sexual promiscuity among other things], it’s nice to be able to see a film that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to watch in either mixed company or with your teenager [or for that matter to feel comfortable allowing your teen to see].
—Donna, age 49
I loved this movie! It was 20 billion times better than that boring Notting Hill! There were only two instances of cursing (one at the beginning of the movie which was a**h*** and the other a** word was used more towards the end). There was also a crude sexual remark by the grandmother in reference to a male private part which was highly inappropriate and unnecessary (as are all of these kinds of sexual references in movies) and it didn’t ruin the movie for me but I certainly wouldn’t take a child to see it whether they knew what they were talking about or not… it’s not something a kid needs to hear. In any case, the movie was wonderful and if you can get past the sexual reference and the two instances of cursing you are in for a great ride down the highway of romance… and it DEFINITELY won’t make you “run away”!
—Sharla Kay, age 30
I went to see Runaway Bride with a friend, and was very pleased to see that it was such a good and decent movie. …Movies like this one are rare. I think this can be a movie for the whole family to see. It was romantic, funny and entertaining. There was hardly any bad language if any, and not really any off-color jokes. It was a lot of fun because of its decency.
—Carrie, age 18
As opposed to the guest reviewer, I found that Runaway Bride was a delightful movie—one that is safe to see by all. The thing about romantic comedies is the fun and even the knowing of, perhaps, how the end will come about. The surprises are when the plans change, and everything is resolved in the last 20 min. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere were perfect for this movie—they have great chemistry, and the plot worked great what with them being enemies at the first. My mom, who is known for her extreme criticism, high standards, and natural dislike for even the least offensive films, actually is trying to get me to take her to the movie again. It was romantic, it was a comedy, and it was clean. Two thumbs up, four stars.
—Sarah, age 18
I think “Runaway Bride” was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I don’t know where the reviewer got the foul language from because I saw the movie twice and only heard the a-word once. That was when Gere was going to kick the door of his hotel bathroom in because he knew Julia was in there.

The innuendos regarding sex were light and my daughter didn’t even know what the one eyed snake was. So the sex parts were done very lightly and it was really refreshing to see a movie without the f-word and the GD-word. Plus, no nude scenes and no violence. Gee, what a concept. It was like one of those old Doris Day movies that was fun and had a lot of cute jokes and really made you laugh even though you knew the ending would end happily. My dad laughed his head off. And that is a man who likes action-packed movies.

I would tell all my friends about this one because it is so clean and it is just such an enjoyable film I would recommend it for young and old.
—Dorris, age 43