There's a moment early in Paul Feig's outlandishly funny Bridesmaids when you can't help but begin to adore Annie Walker, the maladroit protagonist portrayed by Kristen Wiig. She has just been pulled over by a charming Irish-accented police officer named Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd) who will, not surprisingly, soon become her love interest, but not before having her perform a sobriety test. Turning this into an opportunity to dance a little soft-shoe instead of merely walking a straight line, Wiig commits to the act with an ingratiating zeal that perfectly captures her brilliance as a performer.
It's easy to root for an underdog and Annie certainly fits the bill. In the wake of seeing her dreams of opening a bakery end in failure, she is working a retail job at a jewelry store and absolutely despises it. To make matters worse, her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and has developed a tight bond with the insufferably snooty Helen (Rose Byrne). The group of titular bridesmaids that maid of honor Annie soon meets, aside from Helen, also includes Lillian's jaded cousin (Wendi McClendon-Covey), the requisite naďve friend (Ellie Kemper) and an uncouth future sister-in-law Megan (Melissa McCarthy in a raunchy but also surprisingly touching performance that won her an Oscar nomination).
As we lead up to the wedding day, there are a number of comic scenes that swing for the fences and do not disappoint. From the ladies' uncomfortable experience with trying on dresses after eating some bad Brazilian barbecue to Annie's extended freak-out after Helen buys Lillian the perfect wedding gift, there is no shortage of big laughs along the way. The best of these is probably Wiig's indignant attitude towards a flight attendant after she mixes alcohol and prescription pills to combat her fear of flying.
For all the broad humor on display, there is also a surprising sweetness and vulnerability in how Feig and co-writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo reveal all of the bridesmaids as something more than one-dimensional caricatures. A great sequence in which Annie makes delectably intricate pastries for the new man in her life to the tune of Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag," only to just ultimately eat them herself, is quietly heartbreaking. And McCarthy is magnificent in a key scene where Megan identifies a need to give tough love to Annie, demonstrating the resiliency required when life seems intent on endlessly stacking the deck against you.
It's exceedingly rare to find a comedy excelling on this many levels, and to that point, there hasn't been one as wholly satisfying since Bridesmaids was released in 2011.
Bridesmaids is the final film to screen in the TOGA! The Reinvention of the American Comedy retrospective at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It screens at 9pm on August 29th, 2013. (Universal)