Made of Honor & r & & r & by MARYANN JOHANSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & t first I thought, in spite of myself: "OK, this might work." I mostly hate romantic comedies because they tend to be neither romantic nor comedic, and because they tend to be full of characters who behave in ways illogical even in the romantic-comedy universe -- or who are unlikable in any universe.

You can see where Made of Honor is going from the get-go because it's blatantly predictable and because the marketing of the movie -- hell, the title of the movie -- spoils it all. Tom's a rich ladies' man; Hannah's his down-to-earth and platonic best friend. Hannah will eventually fall in love with a grown-up man capable of making a commitment, will agree to marry him, and will ask Tom to be her maid of honor; he is, after all, genuinely her best friend. And Tom will, of course, choose this moment to decide to grow up himself and admit to himself that all he really wants is to be with Hannah, in all the ways we use that phrase, setting himself on a course to spoil the wedding and win Hannah for himself.

But it was OK, at first, because our two stars, Patrick Dempsey as Tom and Michelle Monaghan as Hannah, have an easy charm, even if you've never bought into the whole "Doctor McDreamy" thing that Dempsey will never be able to escape. (I certainly haven't.) It would be OK even if you haven't been keeping a weather eye, as I have, on Monaghan for a while now, to see if that spark of talent and energy and life she exudes would find fertile cinematic ground.

But then it begins. What had been a charming if undaring story about two friends who might be able to fall in love stops trusting itself. Slapstick rears its ugly head out of nowhere, as if we couldn't appreciate Tom's discomfort at being introduced to Hannah's new fianc & eacute;, Colin (Kevin McKidd), just at the very moment when he realizes he's in love with her.

But it gets so much worse. Hannah, who works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, meets Colin on an extended business trip to Scotland to acquire some art, and it's while she's gone that Tom is struck by her absence, and how his merry-go-round of random girlfriends just can't measure up. But the Scottish angle turns into a whole "aren't foreigners funny?" thing -- Hannah's wedding is coming together super-quick in the Highlands. Then come the fat jokes -- one of Tom's fellow bridesmaids is less than svelte, which is, of course, cause for endless "humor." Then come the gay jokes -- because of course Tom must be gay if he's the bride's witness, because, geez, what other explanation could there be? Then come the dessert jokes -- there's a running motif about sharing desserts and how that represents how people share their lives, and it would work beautifully if it didn't suggest that in the short but intense time Hannah spent with Colin before they decided to get married, they hadn't shared a single dessert. Which is preposterous.

It all just gets more and more phony until the ending, which is so eye-rollingly awful that you want to throw something at the screen. If Made of Honor had just been terrible from the beginning, I wouldn't have cared. But it wasn't, so now I'm mad. (Rated PG-13)

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