A journalist travels to a small town where a woman is serially dumping hopefuls at the alter, with the aim of writing an expose. He worms his way into her life, they fall in love, and the whole thing bulids to a will she/won't she climax.
It's taken ten producers, nine years and two studios to get Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall back together to recreate the 'magic' of seminal date movie Pretty Woman.
Unfortunately, the 'magic' goes AWOL pretty sharpish as Runaway Bride falls a long way short of its predecessor's romantic guile and comedic smarts.
Second time around, Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter, a fix-it girl in an idyllic small town who gains herself a reputation for serially dumping boyfriends come the wedding day. Gere, lazily trading on his well-worn shaggy charms, is fading New York journo Ike Graham, who travels to Carpenter's backwater with the intention of writing a candid expos of her nasty chucking-at-the-chapel exploits.
The first half of the movie - Graham interviewing jilted beaus, inveigling his way into her family as Maggie spits venom at him - is bogstandard romcom sparring. All this leads to an equally predictable second half, in which she warms to his ways, he gets to know the 'real' Maggie and the whole thing grinds inexorably to a will she/won't she 'climax' in the last reel.
Little of McGibbon and Parriott's dialogue fizzes and the story dynamic offers few opportunities for the stars to spark. Working against Roberts' trademark likeability, the script never finds real justification for Maggie's jilting, so it becomes difficult to empathise with her or, ultimately, to care about her.
Despite the picture book Americana setting, there is little fairytale ambience to warm the cockles - something its progenitor had in spadeloads - and even less of a romance you can root for. Marshall marshals the package attractively enough and there are nicely judged supporting turns from Rita Wilson as Gere's ex-wife and Elizondo as his compadre - his Federal Express one-liner is one of the best of the year.
Indeed, Runaway Bride isn't so much bad as deeply average; it raises smiles rather than laughs, strokes rather than pulls the heartstrings. But, in the modern romcom era, that just ain't enough.
If you're expecting a 'Pretty Woman' re-hash, think again. This lacks any of the first film's charm and is nothing more than deeply average.