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Runaway Bride

Starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere
Director: Garry Marshall
Genre: Comedy
Year: 1999
Rating: 4 / 5

Runaway Bride is not a sequel to Pretty Woman, even if the same actors have been rounded up for this latest Garry Marshall film. And while the magic that Julia Roberts and Richard Gere generated in the original may not ever be equaled by this pair, this movie succeeds in its own right. The reason, surprisingly, is not Julia Roberts, but rather, Richard Gere. The veteran actor is finally afforded the opportunity to "let his hair down," and he displays a comic touch that is not apparent in the majority of his earlier work, including Pretty Woman. His charm and sense of humor drive this movie, making it an above-average comedy rather than merely a good one.

Ike Graham (Gere) is a female-bashing journalist for USA Today (which is shamelessly plugged throughout the movie), scrambling for his next column. While having a drink in a nearby bar, he learns the tale of Maggie Carpenter, a small town woman who just happens to have left three different men standing at the altar. Based upon a drunken man's tale and his own artistic license, Ike produces a scathing editorial on this woman's mating habits. Unfortunately for him, Maggie (Roberts) is none too thrilled with the article, so she writes to Ike's boss (Rita Wilson) in order to have him fired. Despite his pleadings with his boss, who also happens to be his ex-wife, Ike soon finds himself unemployed.

Enter best friend Fisher (Hector Elizondo, another veteran of Pretty Woman) with a plan to save Ike's career. Ike merely has to travel to Maggie's small Maryland town, get some background before her fourth planned wedding, and wait for her to bolt. If she runs for a fourth time, Ike will have a cover story, and his reputation will be saved. As soon as Ike lands in town, Maggie is annoyed and perturbed, doing just about everything to get rid of him. The rest of the townsfolk, however, love the adorable stranger, welcoming him as one of their own. Ike proceeds to follow Maggie around during her daily adventures, learning more about what makes her tick and slowly uncovering why she is unable to commit to marriage.

Runaway Bride is not a suspense thriller, so there is no reason for anyone to doubt the ending that will surely arrive. Inevitably, the affable Ike begins to understand Maggie's true self, and Maggie begins to learn a little bit more about herself and Ike. What differentiates this film from its predecessor is the magnetism exuded by Gere and his fun-loving persona. Julia is not quite as radiant as she is in Pretty Woman, but Gere is allowed to frolic instead of playing the straight-laced corporate player he is sometimes cast typecast as. I found Gere's performance much more enjoyable this time around, even if it was not enough to recapture the original film's magic.

Barring a slightly drawn-out finale, this film excels in some many ways, from the quaint small Maryland town to the exceptional supporting cast. Joan Cusack lends a hand as Peggie Fleming, Maggie's loyal best friend. Christopher Meloni is a welcome addition as Bob, the local high school's football coach and Maggie's would-be husband. Elizondo and Wilson are entertaining background players, playing the blessed union of Ike's best friend and employer. Director Garry Marshall should be given a lot of credit for this effort, giving the audience just what we have come to expect. He delivers a more humorous Richard Gere and a made-to-order ending which makes us all feel warm and tingly inside.

Julia Roberts..........Maggie Carpenter
Richard Gere..........Ike Graham
Joan Cusack..........Peggie Fleming
Hector Elizondo..........Fisher
Rita Wilson..........Ellie
Christopher Meloni..........Bob

Certification: Rated PG.
Running Time: 116 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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