Romantic Comedies: No good

Robert Taylor


– Sweet hopeless romantic female is introduced, preferably doing something quirky or tripping over something.

– Manly man is introduced, preferably doing something manly and/or shirtless.

– Female and male meet in an unbelievable manner and are immediately attracted to one another (a subset of this development is when they “hate” one another until they realize that the fiery passion may just be love).

– Male continues to take off shirt at every possible chance.

– Through some hopelessly contrived plot device the characters have a big fight and “break it off.” This is usually because one or both characters do not tell one another innocent information that could clear up the entire plot, but since it goes unsaid it causes the “downfall” of their relationship.

– Female gets opportunity that causes her to head to the nearest airport, train station, bus stop, etc.

– While standing around shirtless, male realizes he loves female after all and races to stop her from leaving, and after a false ending where we think he missed her, he finds that she couldn’t get on the plane/train/bus, and they kiss, often without any resolution to the problem that caused them to break up in the first place.

Well, I just explained the plot to countless romantic comedies, and I hope I didn’t spoil the movie you were about to pop into your DVD player. Like the generic slasher flick, almost all romantic comedies that follow these rules have no reason to be in existence, besides to gross $20 million in its opening weekend and play on Lifetime Television for years to come. Ladies, you might be forced to sit through all those slasher flicks we put on, but your addiction to this trash is even worse!

What is really depressing about the current state of the romantic comedy is that the filmmakers no longer seem to take any enjoyment in making movies. From the 1930s to the 1950s, romantic films had a real life and vivacity to them: The movies weren’t afraid to buck tradition and throw some wrenches into the system every now and then.

I think the major factor in this lack of engaging actors filling out the screen. The Golden Age of romantic comedies (in other words films that I can watch without vomiting) had the likes of Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, actors who weren’t afraid to make fun of themselves for a laugh and really knew how to steal a scene.

Today’s romantic comedies are filled with actresses and especially actors who refuse to allow themselves to have any fun with the material or to poke fun at themselves.

The men are content to say four words over the course of the movie and have the ladies swoon over their manly shirtless scenes. When was the last time you heard Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor or Benjamin Bratt say something remotely memorable or quotable in any of their romantic movies? Now, when was the last time you remember them keeping their shirts on for an entire movie?

It’s getting so bad that I can actually recite dialogue in the movies before it happens! I went to see How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and was able to say a lot of the dialogue verbatim seconds before it came on screen, to the chagrin of all the females around me who were staring at the slab of meat … er … shirtless Matthew McConaughey onscreen.

But what really gets under my skin is how content Hollywood is in continuing to make these movies, even though they gross less every year.

The best types of romantic movies, the kinds that don’t adhere to the above outline or throw wrenches into the works, are the ones that are going to make more money at the box office and be more financially sound in the future. I loved The Notebook because it gave the audience a male lead with motivations and feelings who wasn’t just set dressing.

I’m certain I’ll get quite a few nasty e-mails from readers who love the romantic comedy formula and still say it works, but the entire genre is past its expiration date and getting moldy very quickly, with the movies becoming less memorable every year. After all, when was the last time you thought about Sweet Home Alabama or How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, both of which grossed over $100 million and both of which many females saw over five times, as a movie you wanted to see again right away?

Contact Pop Arts reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].