Modern day romantic comedies lack romance, comedy

Glory days of Pretty Woman and Sleepless in Seattle are over

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

27 Dresses

Two dazzling leading ladies in wedding dresses, with the film’s title in pink swirled script " one glance at the poster for Bride Wars and you know it’s a romantic comedy. Yet like most modern films in this genre, Bride Wars fails at both counts: it’s neither romantic nor funny.

For someone like me, a hopeless romantic who cries every time Harry and Sally finally get together at the end of Rob Reiner’s classic 1989 film, this trend is deeply saddening.

Bride Wars is a perfect example of the disastrous outcome that occurs when a film studio decides to use the rom-com plot structure without injecting any new life. In this case, there isn’t anything romantic about two yuppie bridezillas sparring over a wedding venue, and it’s not that funny either.

So what happened to the genre that spawned timeless classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Pretty Woman and Sleepless in Seattle? It seems like studios are now content to produce a recycled plotline, pop Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson into the leading role, find a handsome leading man " and call it a day.

40 Year Old Virgin

Films like He’s Just Not That Into You are lacking the “comedy” element of the genre. According to many critics, it turned out to be an overdramatic mess, where the only funny bits were found in the minute-long trailer. And let’s not forget P.S. I Love You from a couple years back " it’s just depressing when the leading man is dead for most of the film.

Modern rom-coms that do succeed at generating laughs often lack the sweeping romance of its predecessors. Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin are funny, in a crude, R-rated kind of way. In both, there was sex " and lots of it " but where was the tender romance characterizing this genre?

In addition, today’s rom-com plotlines take place over the course of mere weeks, or even days, giving the stories little opportunity to take interesting twists and turns.

Made of Honor’s plot spanned a month, 27 Dresses over several weeks and the timeline of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is self-explanatory. Characters in such films are one-dimensional reflections of real people and it makes their romantic plots all the more absurd.

When Harry Met Sally

Things didn’t always use to be this way, however. Take the 1957 classic An Affair to Remember, a two-hour epic exploring the lives of its two star-crossed lovers over the course of six months.

Similarly, When Harry Met Sally was a study of the differences between men and women, with snappy and introspective dialogue bringing life to the title roles played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The two characters grow and evolve over the course of the film’s plot, which spans over a decade of friendship.

Clearly, romantic comedies were smart, insightful films " once upon a time. Now, it seems they’re doomed for happy endings reached through sub-par plotlines, lifeless characters and a lack of both real romance and comedy.

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