Sean Garrity revives the ’00s rom-com. Too sooooon.

by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

aftertheballAfter The Ball
Opens Feb. 27
2 out of 5

There’s something to be said about prolific director Sean Garrity: If it’s difficult for a Hollywood filmmaker to shoot three movies in a five-year span and get them all distributed, imagine how hard is for a Manitoba-based craftsman. And yet, Garrity has done just that with My Awkward Sexual Adventure, Blood Pressure and now After the Ball.

A far more commercial vehicle than his previous efforts, After the Ball wouldn’t be out of place next to Katherine Heigl- or Kate Hudson-tailored rom-coms. Unfortunately, their heyday was nearly a decade ago. Now it’s more fashionable to poke fun at them (see They Came Together).

Overtly inspired by Cinderella, with a dash of The Devil Wears Prada and Mrs. Doubtfire, After The Ball revolves around Kate (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt), a talented fashion designer who can’t get a job. Unemployment and her need for her dad’s approval inspire Kate to join the family business, a fashion retail mammoth that has seen better days.

She wants to save the place, but her plans hit a snag when her evil stepmother (the still-stunning Lauren Holly) and talentless stepsisters (who steal the show) undermine her efforts.

After the Ball goes to predictable motions (alienation from loved ones, a bland suitor), until a rather extemporaneous device injects life into the proceedings: Kate joins the company as Nate, a sassy designer with all the confidence the girl lacks in real life. It’s so bonkers, it makes the film watchable until the end. Also entertaining: the lengths the movie goes to fit Cinderella moments into the plot.

I guess I can buy nobody noticing Nate is Kate in disguise, or that Kate is a fully formed designer straight out of school. But Colin Mochrie having the upper hand over Chris Noth (a.k.a. Mr. Big)… that’s a bridge too far.