When it comes to movies, I have nothing against any particular genre. I like some more than others, as I’m sure you do as well. What I cannot for the life of me understand is when your allegiance to a genre is so absolute that it compels you to see each and every movie within this genre regardless of quality.
The only genres that seem to inspire that kind of loyalty are romantic comedies and . . . well I think that’s it. I have had the following conversation with my wife, Melissa, at least 100 times:
Melissa: I really want to see “French Lace” starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.
Me: Really? The preview looked awful. Let’s see what it got on Rotten Tomatoes. Oh, wow. It got a 3%. Out of 100%. That means of one hundred critics, only three liked it. Three.
(Here’s what the above statement sounds like to Melissa’s ears: “Meow meow, meow. Meow! Meow, meow meow? Meow.”)
Melissa: Mmmm hmmm. Anyway, I’m seeing it.
This is inevitably followed by this conversation after Melissa has seen the movie:
Me: How was it?
Melissa (with genuine surprise): It was so terrible!!! I can’t believe how bad it was.
Me: (Closes eyes, massages temples with palms.)
Dolphin #1: “Did you know ‘The Proposal’ made $315 million dollars?” Dolphin #2: “Stop it.” Dolphin #1: “I’m serious.” Dolphin #2: “‘The Proposal?’ The one with the 53 year-old brunette and Ryan Reynolds and Coach? The really awful one that wasn’t ever funny even once?” Dolphin #1: “Yep, that one.” Dolphin #2: “Well, I guess it’s time, then.”
Melissa is not alone in her slavish devotion to romantic comedy. If every girl in the theater showing the latest Hugh Grant/Sandra Bullock movie turned to the girl on her left and said, “Hi!” the Manhattan stake of the LDS Church would have 100% visiting teaching that month.
This is the cause of great consternation to me. I just don’t understand why on earth you’d want to see a movie you know is going to be bad just because it’s a certain type of movie. Doesn’t the badness of the movie trump its romantic comedy-ness? Ok, I know the answer to that question is a resounding and high-pitched “No!” so I guess my next question is “Why not?”
And while we’re on the topic, why does it seem to be so difficult to make a good romantic comedy? There’s a very simple formula to be followed for romantic comedy greatnesss. It goes like this:
* 2 attractive leads (which means that if Sara Jessica Parker is one of the leads, you’ve already strayed from the formula), preferably one who can play “uptight and neurotic” and another who can play “live life to its most romantic!”
* 2 quirky, wisecracking best friends (maybe gay, maybe married with a brood of kids and a hectic but happy life, or maybe just Judy Greer).
* 1 cheating, lying, rich boyfriend (he may just be nice and boring and dull, but walking away from him at the altar is a pretty awful thing to do, so we need some villainy from him to feel OK about the female lead doing that to him).
* 4 – 6 amazing – AMAZING – houses or apartments in New York or Chicago or LA or San Francisco that cost many millions of dollars and would be entirely outside the realm of possibility for the people who own them in the movie, given that their occupations are limited to novelist and party planner.
* 1 embarrassing scene where one of the leads ends up naked at a tea party.
* 1 scene of the male lead engaged in some kind of sporting activity with his best friend, usually shooting hoops at an urban playground, where they discuss the male lead’s love life between shots.
* 1 grandma prone to sexual innuendo that is hilarious because she’s so old
* 0 black people, although the aforementioned grandma may say some phrases we usually associate with hip hop culture, like, “Grandma be straight trippin’!”
* 1 misunderstanding where the female lead walks in on the male lead saying or doing something that makes it seem like he’s lying or cheating – A misunderstanding that in real life would be cleared up in 30 seconds of conversation between mature adults. “I just heard you say ‘I’m leaving my girlfriend.’” “Oh, you walked in mid-conversation. The entire sentence was, ‘You’re not going to believe this beautiful present that I’m leaving my girlfriend.’” “Oh, ok. Well, that was scary for a second, but I’m glad I clarified that before storming out and changing my phone number.” This scene can be interchanged with a scene in which the female lead somehow discovers that the male lead initially pursued her as a result of some bet with a buddy (made at the abovementioned urban basketball court), at which point the male lead desperately tries to explain that yes, it started with a bet, but after that one moment when she took off her nerd glasses he legitimately fell in love with her, and everything since then has been real. In fact, he’s never felt anything so real in his life. Stephanie! Please, you have to believe him!
* 1 montage of each lead staring at the phone or walking in the rain or staring absently into the distance while being fitted for a gown for a wedding to the cheating, lying, rich and/or dull and lame boyfriend.
* 1 climactic race to a wedding or airport (because if she gets on the plane to London, it’s over. The next flight to London is in 3 years, and they don’t have phones or computers or postal service over there.)
* 1 happy, blissful ending.
It’s not rocket surgery. So why on earth are so many of them so terrible? An example: As a little Valentine’s Day present I took Melissa to see “Valentine’s Day” last Saturday. This was an act of undying love, not because I hate romantic comedies – I actually like them, or at least the good ones – but because I knew in advance that this one was going to be so terrible. I told Melissa it was supposed to be terrible, and then I told our dog, Lyla, not to eat the hot dog on the floor because it’s high in sodium. So we went. And it was terrible. It’s not that it was terrible relative to Citizen Kane. It was terrible relative to good romantic comedies. It was terrible relative to bad romantic comedies.
About an hour into the movie, someone did something that caused the smoke alarm in the theater to go off. I’m guessing it was another husband whose pain threshold is slightly lower than mine. Anyway, in case you’ve ever wondered, there’s a reason you’re not supposed to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. Lots of pushing and running and pandemonium. I, however, was unable to feel any panic at all, given that all of my faculties were occupied with feeling a tremendous rush of relief. Honestly, that fire alarm was the happiest, most blissful ending I could have imagined.