Directed by: Sheree Folkson, Runtime: 100 minutes
A romantic comedy featuring Doctor Who and Nucky's conflicted Irish mistress from Boardwalk Empire. Or, perhaps you prefer Hamlet and the trickster schoolgirl from Trainspotting, or the voice of Merida from Brave and that dude who plays Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter. The reasons to seek out The Decoy Bride shouldn't be much of a riddle: it's the chance to see Scottish darlings David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald cast their charms in a capricious, lackadaisical lark of a story, just to see how they commingle. It's not surprising that the movie itself makes no effort to attempt something distinctive; tattered rom-com tropes, from an awkward meet-cute to city folk discovering love in the quaint countryside, drape heavily over it from the start. What's not expected is the scarcity of both humor and chemistry between Tennant and Macdonald, leaving them marooned on the Scottish isle with nothing but limpness and discomfort as the fruit of their union.
A celebrity couple -- one a famous and beautiful actress, Lara Tyler (Alice Eve), and the other a up-and-coming author, James Arber (Tennant) -- desire a discreet yet romantic wedding at the Scottish island of Hegg, which happens to be the setting for James' self-indulgent, under-researched book. Their wish for privacy is thwarted; pestering paparazzi and the profiteering town itself drive Lara away on her big day. In her absence, the couple's marketing folks cook up the idea for a staged wedding to juke the press, in which James remains unaware of Lara's disappearance until after the false ceremony. On Hegg, the pickings are slim for a youthful female stand-in. Hence, the marketing reps turn to Katie (Macdonald), a broken-hearted shopkeeper who's recently returned to Hegg to spend time with her ailing mother. Events that happen around James' fake wedding to down-home girl Katie, however, cause him to wonder whether he's making the right choice in marrying Lara.
Directed by Brit-TV helmswoman Sheree Folkson from a script written by actress and comedienne Sally Phillips, The Decoy Bride fumbles around with two issues right out of the starting gate: it wears the blithe, impish attitude of a sitcom on its sleeve, and it can't evade the genre's old-hat plot inevitabilities. Everything plays out as you'd expect based on the trailer and recalling a bushel of other rom-coms almost exactly like it -- namely the uninspired Leap Year, another version of the rustic city-mouse, country mouse scenario -- only with chirpy displays of British humor to break up the obvious romantic tidal shifts and melodramatic soul-searching. Here, there's no sparkle in those countless predictabilities that play out between James and Katie, the stale, sparse incorporation of the Scottish isle's liberating quaintness dragging its demeanor down as it spins a halfhearted yarn of love's misunderstandings.
That's a bit unexpected, given the cast that The Decoy Bride boasts. Glimmers of potential reside in the characters' temperaments; James suffers from writer's block due to the pressure of being Lara's mate, while Katie's misguided taste in men leads her to swear off marriage and relationships. Something's there -- the prospect of clever humor and sound lighthearted drama -- but director Folkson can't seem to grasp what makes James and Katie tick, holding Tennant and Macdonald back from shaping these stock characters into fleshed-out, unique individuals for each other to misinterpret. Here's the unfortunate truth: they lack even a drop of chemistry. Scenes where they meet in a grimy public bathroom haunted by a cow, where they're locked in a bedroom full of wedding gifts and champagne, and where they undress on opposing sides of a sheet-wall are agonizingly awkward, where they should be mounting an infectious love-hate rapport.
Truth be told, The Decoy Bride squanders just about all its attempts at generating laughter, even when it really, really wants to with compulsory skits and tongue-tied scenarios, vexing even for a generic tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy. The writing here tops out with inane gags with ludicrous backings, such as a slippery photographer passing himself off as a wizard monk and James slipping on a ridiculous '70s bagpiper's ensemble -- the same on a the cover of a local favorite record -- after he goes for a dip in the island's waters. Conversely, it doesn't make a convincing case for these two cross lovebirds ending up together, either; though, that won't stop 'em from unthinkingly riding that current of predictably across the finish line, dragging faux-emotional baggage through weepy scenes of insipid emotional indulgence -- old folks in love, marital second-guessing, and a hyper-cliché reunion -- that even a sound connection between Tennant and Macdonald couldn't save from low-end mediocrity.
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