RUNAWAY BRIDE (Paramount 1999) Paramount Home Video

It isn't an overstatement to say that Gary Marshall made Julia Roberts career. In Runaway Bride (1999) Marshall attempts at rekindling the scintillating on-screen chemistry between Roberts and Richard Gere that was so palpably magical in Marshall’s megawatt hit Pretty Woman (1991). Marshall is only entirely successful in this endeavor, more the fault of Josann McGibbons, Audrey Wells and Sara Pariott's rather clumsy screenplay that stumbles around for something clever to say, but only occasionally comes to life in fits and sparks as any great comedy should.

The plot concerns one Maggie Carpenter (Roberts); a congenial hardware salesgirl who seemingly wants to be married, but gets cold feet each time she gets close to the altar.

So far Maggie has bolted – literally – out on three pending nuptials - all of them embarrassingly caught on video. She’s currently engaged to prospect #4, high school coach, Bob Kelly (Christopher Meloni) who knows all about her track record, yet is determined to be ‘the one’ by applying sports principles to cure Maggie of her commitment phobia before their big day.

Enter Ike Graham (Gere); a reporter whose exposĂ© on Maggie – nicknamed ‘the runaway bride’ has made her a public celebrity and a rather laughingly silly spectacle. At first, Maggie despises Ike. She also threatens to sue his paper for libel – a move that gets Ike suspended from his job. Ike's editor, Fisher (Hector Elizondo) encourages him to prove that Maggie is a 'serial monogamist'. 

As a rebuttal, Ike is determined to hang around Maggie until her wedding day – convinced that she will never make it to the altar. He follows her to work, attends her engagement luau and generally goads her into giving him a reason for her first three failed attempts. Maggie can't really justify her actions, however. 

Predictably, a romance blossoms between Maggie and Ike – flawed and riddled in angst and self-pity. Breaking off with Bob, Maggie declares her love for Ike and the two set an immediate date to be married. Regrettably, Maggie is running true to form. On their wedding day she bolt from the church, hopping a Purelator truck out of town. "Where is she going?" Ellie Graham - Ike's ex, now with Fisher asks. "I don't know," replies Fisher, "But where ever it is she'll absolutely be there by tomorrow afternoon!"  

Ike goes back to the big city. He gets his job back, but nothing is the same. Then, one night an unexpected delivery arrives on his front step - Maggie; repentant, apologetic and having figured everything out for herself once and for all. It's not fear of commitment that's kept her single, but anxiety over the whole traditionalism of having a wedding. What?!?! 

The ending is weak upon first viewing. But it positively falls apart upon renewed viewings, the inevitable ‘happy ending’ - with Ike and Maggie eloping, then having a small party for friends, merely a tack on to resolve the problematic elements in the script.

Runaway Bride isn't terrible. It's just feather weight without much feel good. The adversarial chemistry between Roberts and Gere doesn't work nearly as well here as it did in Pretty Woman, perhaps because in that film they were never really butting heads, so much as they were indulging in some sly flirting that had some bite to it. 

The familiarity of casting Gere, Roberts and Elizondo (all of whom where in Pretty Woman) sets the bar of audience's expectations at an impossibly high level for a romantic comedy brimming with joy that Runaway Bride never achieves. Is the film worth a glance. Sure. Is it a keeper? Hardly. 

Paramount Home Video’s DVD is rather middle of the road; anamorphic but sourced from a print with dirt, scratches and film grain that is completely unacceptable for a film of this recent vintage. Colors are, on the whole vibrant, though flesh tones appear very orange at times. Contrast levels are solid with very deep blacks and relatively clean whites. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. Extras include a ‘making of’ featurette and commentary track.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)