So I was in the video store yesterday looking for a good gorefest to watch (don't, I repeat, don't fall for Disturbia—it completely sucks and isn't even good for a few pity laughs) and, good freaking god, there are a lot of romantic comedies out! Catch and Release, Music & Lyrics, Because I Said So, The Holiday, not to mention the ones that are in theaters now, including The Nanny Diaries, No Reservations and that terrifying-looking one where Robin Williams plays a wacky priest.
I really, honestly can't think of anything worse than a romantic comedy. Seriously. I'd rather have sharp sticks driven under my nails than watch Something's Got To Give. One of my least favorite movies of all time is As Good As It Gets. So scholocky and condescending. Aw, someone cares about the verbally-abusive old codger. Aw, someone cares about the hard-working single mom. Aw, someone cares about the token gay (but no one skimps on the token gay jokes). Horrible, offensive and proof that the Academy sent out peyote in the gift baskets that year.
The thing that gets me the most about romantic comedies, besides the completely unrealistic plotlines (public enemy number one: Pretty Woman), is that they are always hits even though they follow the same stupid, archaic formula to a T every single time. There are no surprises! There's always a happy ending! What's the point of even watching a movie if you're not going to be surprised? In fact, why don't we just write our own romantic comedy, since it doesn't seem to take much? All you have to do is simply follow The Rules (which is essentially the book version of the romantic comedy), hire Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, and you'll be rich, bitch!
THE ROMANTIC COMEDY RULES
1. Love is blind!
She's a pious Mennonite with a corn-husk doll collection and a love of Little House on the Prairie. He's a schizophrenic child killer with a with a human head collection and a love of beastiality porn. When these two lonely souls meet, it's explosive and they soon discover that they can't live without each other.
(Pretty Woman, Along Came Polly, When Harry Met Sally)
2. They can't fight it!
The woman is always a frigid, detail-obsessed harpy. The man is always a lackadasial slob who has a beloved hobby that involves dirt, mud and/or extreme sports. But unlike in Rule #1, these opposites DON'T attract until they accidentally share a kiss one day and then they realize that some kind of mad scientist chemistry has made them soul mates. Or they keep running into each other totally by coincidence until they just HAVE to talk...and then they talk for hours. (You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Seredipity)
3. The protagonist's best friend is always sassy and always more focused on the protagonist's life than their own!
Cheer up, sad, lonely lead actor/actress! You can always turn to your loyal best friend/wisecracker/sounding board Joan Cusack for some hearty laughs and heartwarming heart-to-hearts. Or if you're a guy, check in with your horndog work buddy Jon Faverau for some beers and cliche-filled convo about women and sex. And if they aren't available, try Donal Logue, Wanda Sykes, Jeremy Piven, Sandra Oh, and/or Carrie Fisher. (Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally, The Break-Up)
4. There's never a bad time to break out into dance/song for no reason!
There's always a wedding/party/reunion/mixer to attend (where you'll get wasted and make a total ass out of yourself)! Or if there's not, there will be a totally contrived group gathering involving an embarrassing game of charades, truth or dare or karaoke. (My Best Friend's Wedding, The Family Stone)
5. When it comes to casting, think "Jennifer or Julia"!
Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, Julia Ormond...
6. You help everyone else find love but can't/don't have time to find love yourself!
(Or you're a dynamic, Type-A woman with your own job and your own money, but it doesn't mean anything unless you have love in your life!) (The Wedding Planner, Sweet Home Alabama, 13 Going On 30)
7. The shy/large/homely girl always finds a handsome/popular/wealthy guy that loves her for her inner beauty! (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bridget Jones's Diary, She's All That)
8. The womanizer always changes his ways, thanks to the love of a good woman! (What Women Want, Hitch, Boomerang)
9. There's always an old perv in the family!
Why is this?? You know what I'm talking about.
Of course, the king and queen of dreck are Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The prince and princess are Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant/Colin Firth (because who can tell them apart?), and the queen mother is Diane Keaton. Duke and Dutchess are Aniston and John Cusack (sadly) and the viscount and viscountess are Mark Ruffalo and Julia Stiles. So chances are, if any of these people star in the movie, it is a romantic comedy. Another good rule of thumb is to avoid anything written by Richard Curtis. He's the guy responsible for Love, Actually, the Bridget Jones travesties, Notting Hill, Four Weddings & A Funeral and the Mr. Bean movie. Just remember that and you should be pretty good to go.
Footnote: While I hate mush pablum, I must add that I am totally behind DARK romantic comedies. My favorite movies include The Graduate, Harold & Maude and Spanking the Monkey (does that qualify)? Note that not one of these movies follow the above rules. And I do like the '80s teen ones, like Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful. However, I always thought Andie should have ended up with Duckie. That one always pissed me off.