The inexplicably non-Marine-related concept behind Made of Honor - that Patrick Dempsey's very bestest friend ever would ask him to be her "maid" of honor just at the very same exact time that he finally realised after ten years that he was totally in love with her - was already horrifying in its way. The trailers reinforced that nobody involved was at all interested in wringing even a little tiny bit of comedy out of the premise. And yet somehow, the thing itself manages to be worse even than I'd expected. This is not what we speak of when we praise films for exceeding our hopes.

Primarily, I come to this believe because of the highly problematic meet-cute, in which the male lead almost accidentally rapes the female lead. Is that an exaggeration? Yes, of course, but not nearly enough of one. It's Halloween night in 1998, and college senior Tom (Dempsey, in surprisingly effective youth makeup - I believed as a 22-year-old far more than I ever believed him as a 32-year-old) has talked his way into a drunken freshman's dorm room. It should be noted that Tom is wearing a Bill Clinton mask and Smash Mouth is playing, just so we're extra sure that it's really 1998 (this and Definitely, Maybe have both used Clinton as a shorthand for, "hey, remember the '90s?" in a way that absolutely must not become a trend). Except, oops, drunk girl's artsy roommate Hannah (Michelle Monaghan, more believable as a 28-year-old than as an 18-year-old) isn't at the library like she was supposed to be, but asleep in bed, so the unsuspecting Tom sneaks in and crawls in next to her and starts dry-humping her.

Needless to say, this immensely charming moment leads the two to a ten-year career as platonic soul-mates.

When next we see them, its late summer of 2008 (making Made of Honor a science-fiction movie), and Tom is still an incredible horndog with a semi-harem of lovely ladies that he sleeps with under a convoluted set of rules like "not two nights in a row" and "not twice during the work week." The women seem terrifically happy with this arrangement, apparently because he is Patrick Dempsey and thus dreamy. Meanwhile, Hannah is a specialist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and her relationship with Tom is defined by all sorts of cutesy little things that make us aware how very perfectly they fit together: he brings her the exact Starbucks she likes every Sunday, she guesses the item he's going to buy at their favorite bakery for Sunday brunch, and most importantly, she manages not to tear him five new assholes every time he talks about his battlefield of sexual conquests.

Hannah goes to Scotland on an acquisitions trip, Tom and his pack of men come to the realisation that he is and always has been besotted with her, and he is ready to ask her out the day she gets back, except that she brought with her an extraordinary slice of Scottish manhood, the son of a Duke and heir to the largest whiskey distillery in the country, Colin McMurray (Kevin McKidd). They're engaged, and she wants her BFF Tom to stand for her at the wedding, gender roles be damned. He accepts for the noble reason that he hopes it will allow him to drive a wedge between the two lovebirds.

The fact that this is not in any way original isn't really much of a problem. The fact that it's completely awful is. There's no humor to speak of, for a number of reasons: Tom is much too desperate to be much of a figure of fun; his cadre of buddies are a collection of stale stereotypes, much too shallow to be amusing (the particularly tragic waste is Sydney Pollack as Tom's dad, a cheerful plutocrat who goes through wives like normal men go through sweatsocks); the film is extraordinarily anxious to make sure that we get that this will have a conventionally happy ending, and the giant piles of foreshadowing block the light from ever reaching the parts that are supposed to be entertaining in the now. I believe that I laughed twice: once at the bitter sniping between Tom and his old fling Melissa (Busy Philipps), and this is only because I am a mean person; once at a surprisingly deft visual gag where Tom spots his reflection in a bridal store window, looking like he's wearing a dress.

When I'm watching tedious romantic comedies, I like to play a game: what classic film director could have made this idea work? It's very hard to do that with Made of Honor; the best I could come up with was that it might have been a late-period Howard Hawks film that nobody much remembers any more. Instead of Hawks, we get Paul Weiland, who really ought to be better than this - his TV credits include Mr. Bean and Jim Henson's The Storyteller - and whose approach to the material is not to go the expected route of treating it like like anonymous and disposable summer garbage, but to try and make something of the material. Hence the surprisingly deft visual gag referenced above. This is a praiseworthy inclination, except that the result is undoubtedly to the already anemic film's detriment: his stylistic choices are at best an awkward fit for a Patrick Dempsy rom-com, from the slightly grainy, slightly desaturated look of the whole movie, to more specific missteps such as an abrupt handheld zoom in that calls to mind music videos and Battlestar Galactica, or a canted angle going down a staircase that I really can't describe at all, but it's weirdly Expressionist. Clearly, Weiland is trying to give the film some personality; that personality is a touch demented for a fluffy comedy, unfortunately. And Weiland's directing does absolutely nothing to help pull comedy screaming from the barren soil of the screenplay and the empty, pretty actors.

Essentially, the movie exists for one reason: because you like looking at handsome Patrick Dempsey. Yes, you do. Stop lying, the movie knows that you do. He's handsome! Of course you like to look at him! Now, you can spend $8 to fulfill your desire to look at Patrick Dempsey, who is handsome, or I can save you the trouble:

So fucking handsome. Can I have my two hours back please?