“Bridesmaids” Revisited: Can Paul Feig Climb Back To The Top?

In 2011, Paul Feig was not an unknown entity. He had a recurring role on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and created Freaks And Geeks with Judd Apatow. His name carried weight in the industry along with general audiences. The world was not ready for what he had in store. Paul Feig was about to unleash Bridesmaids on the world.

For those of you somehow unaware (that’s okay, I only just watched it last year actually), Bridesmaids is a story about two best friends (Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph) figuring out adulthood until the latter gets engaged, with the former being the maid of honor. We met the bridal party, consisting of Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, and Wiig’s new nemesis, Rose Byrne. Wiig and Byrne essentially feud over who is Rudolph’s true best friend. There are shenanigans involving dress fittings, airplane anxiety, Wiig’s romantic life, and almost every single joke hits. It was now the future; women were not only allowed to be funny, but they could do it better than men.

Let’s be clear- I’m not claiming Bridesmaids to be the first time women were ever funny on film. That’s ludicrous. I just like to write silly things to make sure you’re still reading.

Bridesmaids, of course, was a smashing success. It grossed over $288 million globally on a $32.5 million budget. I’ll be the first person to tell you Rotten Tomatoes scores don’t really mean anything (or perhaps the second person on this particular website), but the film managed a 90%, which is still impressive. Better yet, this vulgar, female-led comedy was nominated for two Academy Awards- Melissa McCarthy for Supporting Actress and the team of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo for Original Screenplay. Comedies are exceedingly rare guests at awards shows, but Paul Feig and Bridesmaids announced they were here to stay.

The only problem is that six years later, Feig hasn’t really gotten all that close to his Bridesmaids peak. He directed The Heat in 2013, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. It was generally well-liked by audiences, though not as much as it’s predecessor. The plot was formulaic, and Feig wasn’t as well-equipped to direct action as he could have been. The film does suffer a little bit in those sequences.

His next directorial effort was 2015’s Spy. This film, yet again featuring McCarthy in the lead, rose above The Heat to reach rapturous critical acclaim. It even made something of an awards show appearance, receiving​ Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Lead Actress, both for Comedy. Rotten Tomatoes (ugh) even scores it at 94%, which is higher than Bridesmaids. I don’t speak for the world, but just because Spy is possibly more well-liked, doesn’t mean it is a better film. I’ll even outright say that, while a very strong comedy (thanks to the addition of Jason Statham and a returning Rose Byrne), it remains a notch below what I believe to be his “masterpiece”.

The following year is where things get particularly muddy. As you may recall, 2016 saw the release of Feig’s Ghostbusters, an internet hate-drawing reboot of the 1984 Ivan Reitman classic. With McCarthy and Wiig back, Feig returned to drawing from Saturday Night Live by adding Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. While the film was problematic in its own right, there was just no chance of it overcoming the misguided vitriol of nostalgia-fueled sexist idiots. Many people hated the film before it was ever released. This was a clear sign of a ridiculous and close-minded person unwilling to accept new things.

I thought the film had promise on announcement, but it wasn’t able to live up to the original. However, the fact that I still see new pictures of young girls dressed up as Ghostbusters lifts my spirits and makes me thankful that the film exists for them at least.

The big question is whether Paul Feig can come back. He has mentioned wanting a sequel to Ghostbusters, but I’m not convinced it grossed enough to warrant one. His IMDb page lists The Heat 2 as “announced”, which I’m not very fond of in theory. There has also been word that he was attached to a film based on “Play-Doh”, which makes no sense and has only worked for The Lego Movie. With this potential upcoming slate, I, for one, am nervous about the next few years for Feig. What he really needs is a figurative blank check. The ability to put together his own original film done the way he wants with minimal studio interference. Perhaps the solution lies in finding new talent to work with instead of staying in his safe and comfortable norm.

Will we be able to see this occur? Will Feig be able to match the critical and financial success of Bridesmaids, one of the best comedies of the 21st Century? Will we see any more strictly comedic performances nominated for an Oscar (not including Matt Damon’s hilarious role in The Martian)?

Let us know your thoughts down below!

Nick Potter

Co-founder of The Filmsmiths. Degree in Broadcast & Cinematic Arts with a minor in Cinema Studies from Central Michigan University. Pretty much the barbecue sauce of people but I'm doing my best.

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