Girls are so dumb. They say they want to grow up and become, you know, lawyers and stuff; but all they really want to do is grow up and grab some poor guy and make him buy them a cauliflower-size diamond ring and then throw themselves a monstro wedding and invite all 400 of their pathetically unmarried girlfriends to duke it out over the bridal bouquet. You know it's true.

Or you do now that "Bride Wars" is here to break the news. "It all began at the Plaza Hotel 20 years ago," says an opening voice-over — although it's soon clear that the movie's view of women and their wants dates back much farther, possibly to the Late Pleistocene. The script may have started out as an attempted satire of the American wedding industry (two of its three writers are female), but the picture it has produced is a prolonged honk of derision aimed at the women who get caught up in our national matrimonial mania. Admittedly, anyone who longs to drop $10,000 on a simple Vera Wang wedding gown needs some sort of slap on the head. But this movie has a curdled nastiness (especially in its depiction of secondary characters) that's unlikely to play well even on the chick-flick circuit.

Kate Hudson is Liv, a hard-charging New York lawyer. Anne Hathaway is her life-long best friend Emma, a doe-eyed school teacher. Ever since they were kids, both of them have dreamed of one day getting married at the Plaza — which, if I may explain for out-of-towners, is a place where room rates start in the spine-tingling vicinity of a thousand dollars a night and the eggs Benedict in a Palm Court breakfast will set you back 30 bucks (or would have, if the hotel hadn't been forced to close the Palm Court last week, presumably for lack of enough out-of-towners willing to pay 30 bucks for eggs Benedict). For different reasons, both girls have to finance their weddings pretty much themselves, once they become engaged (to male characters whose roles in the proceedings are entirely vestigial). This might not be a problem for lawyer Liv, maybe, but Emma? A teacher? Oh, wait: "I've been saving up for this since I was 16." Ah.

Since it's an article of faith in wedding world that no mere civilian can organize one of these extravaganzas, Liv and Emma consult a high-end wedding planner (Candice Bergen), who's happy to confirm their belief that the big-ticket nuptial blowout is a peak life experience. ("You have been dead until now," she tells them. "You are dead right now.") The planner screws up, though, and books both girls' Plaza weddings on the same day. Since there are apparently no other venues in Manhattan suitable for marrying — no others quite so pitifully ostentatious, anyway — this means war. Soon, in an effort to fatten Liv up beyond the confines of her Vera Wang frock, Emma is anonymously sending her boxes of chocolates, baskets of snacks and a membership in the International Butter Club. (After a dismal beginning, the movie does strike some funny notes.) Liv retaliates by sabotaging a tanning session that ends up turning Emma's skin orange. Emma strikes back by infiltrating a beauty salon and arranging to alter Liv's dye job to an electric shade of blue.

Some of this might have passed for uproarious in a TV sitcom, although probably in an earlier decade than the one in which we're dozing through this movie. The plot has the rigid predictability of a wedding march; and while it's funny to hear one of the girls' bachelorette guests desperately yelping, "I'm gonna do a quick head-count of the hot drunk single guys," there's also something predatory and off-putting about it. The director, Gary Winick, may have been hoping to give the picture some of the urban gleam of a movie like "The Devil Wears Prada," but even with the excellent Frederick Elmes behind the camera, "Bride Wars" isn't much to look at. More remarkably, neither are its two stars, both well-known beauties. Someone has contrived to keep Hathaway's lustrous hair yanked back from her face for much of the film, putting an unflattering emphasis on her outsized features; and a shocking makeup misstep has Hudson looking like a gingerbread cookie that's been left in the oven too long. The upbeat outcome of the movie's titular bridal battle is never in doubt, but these two suffer heavy collateral damage.

Check out everything we've got on "Bride Wars."

Check out Kurt Loder's reviews of "Unborn" and "Silent Light," which also open this week, and his picks for the best movies and performances of 2008.

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