After cornering the market in bloke movies (Superbad, Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, etc), Judd Apatow decided to add his production clout to a project that was conceived, written and performed by women. And it’s typical of a man with the Midas touch that the actresses in question – Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy – just happen to be among the funniest and most talented young women in the business.

Bridesmaids arrives here with a big reputation, having opened to phenomenal business in the States (it recouped its $32 million outlay after just four days) and impressive word-of-mouth. That can be something of a two-edged sword, as audiences here are apt to head into the cinema with unrealistic expectations.

In that regard, Bridesmaids won’t disappoint, as it’s a genuinely funny film, with a smart script, cracking set-pieces and an ensemble cast completely at home with the material. The driving force for the movie is Kristen Wiig, the latest export from Saturday Night Live to make it big, who acts as both co-writer and star of the project. Wiig plays Annie, a gal-next-door type who is down on her luck. Her bakery business has shut down; she’s sharing an apartment with the British siblings from hell (Matt Lucas included); and she’s in a doormat 'relationship' with handsome but obnoxious Jon Hamm.

Events seem to take a turn for the better when Annie’s best pal, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), announces she is getting married. But Annie’s hoped-for shot at the Maid of Honour role is under threat from Lillian’s new pal, Helen (Rose Byrne), who happens to be stunning, wealthy and ultra condescending.

In lesser hands, Bridesmaids could have been a run-of-the-mill chick-flick around the usual tropes – hen party, rubbish boyfriends, etc, but Wiig is not content to settle for just that. For one thing, she’s a terrific actress. Many of the SNL alumni are funny people who merely translate their comedy sketch skills to the big screen. Wiig is a genuinely talented actress who could easily be the next contender for the rom-com queen slot dominated in recent years by Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon. (If she plays her cards right, she could have the post TV movie career that Jennifer Aniston never quite managed to obtain.)

In addition to Wiig, there’s a marvellous sense of ensemble among the collective bridesmaids, with Melissa McCarthy stealing scenes left and right like a female Zach Galifianakis. Also good is our man Chris O’Dowd, who does his Hollywood credentials a power of good with his portrayal of a sweet and sensitive cop who mightn’t have the va-va-voom of Hamm but is clearly a better bet for Wiig’s character. And a quick word for the late, brilliant Jill Clayburgh for whom Bridesmaids is her swansong.

At the end of the day, Bridesmaids will be judged on its humour and in that regard there are some superb set-pieces that will linger. These include a plane trip to Vegas that goes horribly wrong; a series of cringeworthy engagement party speeches that you can only watch from behind your hands; and, best of all, a sequence in an upmarket bridal boutique which incorporates the most effective use of projectile vomiting this side of The Exorcist (don’t ask!).

Michael Doherty