Lisa Kudrow — the one with the wit: As Phoebe on Friends and Pheebs’ twin, Ursula, on Mad About You, Kudrow is the Val gal incarnate. But this Vassar grad who quit science for comedy has always been smart about playing dumb. Maybe her training with the Groundlings, the noted Los Angeles improvisation group, helped Kudrow, 33, find the depth in daffy. In a small role in Mother — she’s a date from hell for Albert Brooks’ highbrow author — Kudrow slyly punctured his intellectual pretensions.
The problem? Kudrow is still playing the dumb blonde. Is that all she can do? The affably airheaded Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion won’t silence her detractors, though Kudrow’s Michele is a deadpan delight as she joins fellow misfit Romy (a deliciously funny Mira Sorvino) at their 10-year high school reunion. The trailer alone is wittier than the entirety of McHale’s Navy and Jungle 2 Jungle, two ’97 comedies driven by TV stars.
drow and Sorvino have a ball in this babe version of Dumb and Dumber. Romy to Michele: “All I’ve had to eat for the past six days are gummy bears, jelly beans and candy corn.” Michele to Romy: “I wish I had your discipline.”
Whether she’s exercising on a treadmill in heels, sticking out her tongue at a kid in a passing car or dissing three former teen queens for getting fat when actually they’re pregnant, Kudrow makes Michele her own. She’s had practice. Kudrow originated the character onstage in Ladies Room, a 1988 play by Robin Schiff, who expanded the minor roles of Romy and Michele for her screenplay. Kudos to first-time feature director David Mirkin, a former stand-up comic with ace TV writing credits (The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show), for his clever variations on a one-joke theme; to Janeane Garofalo for her scrappy turn as a bad-ass classmate; and to Mona May for the twirly fun of her costumes. Kudrow’s range may be limited, but she knows how to work it for laughs, emotion and her own kind of truth. On the Friends pilot, Joey asked: “Pheebs, you wanna help?” The answer, as usual, came with a zinger that is pure Kudrow. “Oh, I wish I could,” she said, “but I really don’t want to.” You go, girl.