Actor David Tennant (who older readers may remember starred in Doctor Who for a few years in the Noughties) returns to the big screen in this rom~com from British actress Sally Phillips (Smack The Pony, Miranda and Bridget Jones’s Diary). Before I begin, I will say, that The Decoy Bride is not a qualitative piece of work – disabuse yourself of the notion that this is a “proper” film; it’s not.
It is, however, a “proper” rom~com, complete with campetry, clunky script, forgettable performances, inexplicable character changes and predictable outcome. And barely crossing the 80 minute mark, this really is not a film. To be as reductive as possible, which is all this film deserves, it’s a cross between The Devil Wears Prada, Notting Hill and Local Hero with a little bit of Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty thrown in for good measure (already, I know some of you are thinking, “This sounds great!”).
The story sees world~famous actress Lara Tyler (played with supreme blandity by Alice Eve) having trouble trying to marry her fiance, writer James Arbor (Tennant), due to unwanted and intrusive press attention. This leads the couple to escape to the small Scottish island of Hegg in an attempt to conduct their nuptials privately. Hegg was featured heavily in Arbor’s first book though, as it transpires, the writer didn’t actually visit the island.
Despite the remoteness of their celebrations, the press are alerted and it’s not long before the title of the film raised its head. Enter unlucky~in~lurve islander Katie (the sumptuously gorgeous Kelly MacDonald) who is recruited to pretend to be Lara in order to throw the paparazzi off the “scent”.
You can see where this is going (though it takes them almost half the film to get to this point – where, really, it should have taken half even that time). But predictability is key to rom~coms, so it seems churlish to criticise such a thoroughly worn conceit (despite how eye~rollingly dim the film is at times). Indeed, Shakespeare reveled into romantic misconceptions and heterosexual union – and people still rate that guy!
The cast, with the exception of Macdonald, are a woeful bunch (despite the collective talent they have). David Tennant displays another poor choice in project since leaving Doctor Who. Full credit to him for choosing diverse roles on radio, stage and on television (where the Scot excelled in Single Father and United) but his movie career is risible. Sadly, being connected to big~screen offerings like this, does no favours for the former Time Lord.
St Trinians 2 and Fright Night hardly lit up the cinematic landscape but, worse than that, Tennant’s currency as an acting talent is being eroded by works like The Decoy Bride. Here, Tennant is almost playing The Doctor again (if a slightly meaner version to kick off with). It’s full of his vocal mannerisms and ticks, almost exaggerated at times. I mean, he’s not awful; just disappointing. He is capable of so much more.
The rest of the cast are equally poor with writer Sally Phillips’ American accent distractingly bad whilst Michael Urie (best known for Ugly Betty) may delight those who love nasty, camp performances but sadly does nothing for me, other than irritate. Thankfully the lead role, Kelly Macdonald, is at least engaging and sympathetic. In fact, there’s times when the actress is just downright adorable. Macdonald really carries this film – if it wasn’t for her likable charm and comedic grace, then The Decoy Bride really would have been unwatchable.
On the plus side, there are a couple of chucklesome gags (notably the use of “trouser catalogue” and a dig at the Orkney Islands where “anything goes”), a pleasing nod to Local Hero with the red telephone box (along with elements of the story itself), and full marks for not making the other woman of the piece, Alice Eve’s Lara, a complete bitch (a trait too many rom~coms go for). But these are small pluses, to be honest.
The Decoy Bride uses the vernacular of the rom~com and, more accurately, the television sitcom, where every act ends with a montage scored to an upbeat acoustic song, sung by a girl with an odd voice (she’s probably a bit kooky too). It’s not challenging in that respect, though there’s no reason why it should be – and it’s certainly not a terrible film, or even bad. It’s an inoffensive telly comedy/drama, at best – light, bright and frothy and unlikely to leave an impression.
Without wanting to patronise or condescend, I’m sure the film will find an audience and many will lap it up and enjoy. Indeed, in the UK, I can see it doing quite well at the box office – though why this has not been released for Valentine’s Day absolutely baffles me. The Decoy Bride is perfect fodder for a date, or a bunch of pissed~up women looking to ogle Tennant and gobbble choccies. But not so perfect for those who enjoy good films.