27 DRESSES — ** — Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, violence, brief sex)

Calling "27 Dresses" predictable is putting it mildly. From the opening scene, it's painfully obvious exactly where the film is going and how everything is going to turn out.

The predictability and familiarity of the material might not be such a bad thing if choreographer-turned-director Anne Fletcher hadn't tried to stretch it out for so long.

It takes this romantic comedy nearly two hours to get to that most-expected ending. As a result, it feels like an overlong sitcom, though admittedly there are those who do prefer such things.

And it is a pretty safe starring vehicle for "Grey's Anatomy" actress Katherine Heigl. She plays Jane, a wedding-obsessed woman who's always a bridesmaid and never a bride.

Jane pines (not so secretly) for her boss, George (Edward Burns). Needless to say, she's broken-hearted when he falls head over heels for her shallow, globe-trotting sister, Tess (Malin Akerman).

However, thing aren't all bad for Jane. She is being pursued by Kevin (James Marsden), a journalist who's planning to write a story about her and who has been charmed by Jane. As fate would have it, the outwardly cynical Kevin is really a hopeless romantic.

Aline Brosh McKenna's plot is one of those that relies on unrealistic, sitcom-like character motivations and action. If someone would just tell the truth for once, the film would wrap up much sooner and more convincingly.

As it is, there's considerable duplicity and double dealing, which make these characters a little unlikable. That's as true for Akerman's annoying party girl Tess as it is for Heigl's long-suffering Jane, who is supposedly the heroine of the piece.

The male characters don't come off all that well either, though at least Marsden does inject some needed personality and life into this by-the-numbers silliness.

The most watchable part of the film is actually comic actress Judy Greer, who plays Jane's too-truthful co-worker. She's not in it nearly enough, though.

"27 Dresses" is rated PG-13 for some sexually suggestive humor and references, scattered profanity, slapstick violence (pratfalls and some vehicular mayhem), a brief sex scene (implied) and brief drug references. Running time: 112 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com