Runaway Bride [1999]

It took nearly a decade to find a mutually agreeable screenplay, but the stars and director of Pretty Woman finally reunited to make Runaway Bride, wisely avoiding any attempt to recapture the 1990 film's elusive magic. The result is a perfectly pleasant romantic comedy that would've fared better critically (despite boffo box office) if it hadn't been overshadowed by its blockbuster predecessor. It's certainly a more credible film than Pretty Woman, trading a far-fetched fairy tale (hooker hooks up with tycoon? bah!) for a more amiably conventional plot about big-city reporter Ike Graham (Richard Gere) who falls for a small-town handywoman Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) with a nasty habit of fleeing from the altar in a recurring state of premarital panic. Both characters are instantly likable, and the smooth dialogue by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott only occasionally panders to sitcom cuteness. And despite his routine sacrifice of subtle craft for commercial appeal, director Garry Marshall knows when to trust his stars and material, lending this movie a casual charm (aided by a terrific supporting cast) that never feels forced or artificial. The whole thing's utterly predictable, riding on the suspenseless question of whether Maggie will dump her sports-nut fiancé (Christopher Meloni) and tie the knot with Ike. It's a foregone conclusion after the usual games of romantic cat and mouse, but the chemistry between Roberts and Gere is undeniable, and with a decade's worth of additional stardom between them, they shine as brightly as ever. --Jeff Shannon

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