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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Not All Romantic Comedies Are Created Equal

Photo: jmscottIMD
A local columnist named Rainbow Rowell wrote an article that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Omaha World Herald saying all romantic comedies are terrible. She still watches them, but they are terrible.

“The number of romantic comedies that aren’t terrible is statistically insignificant,” she says. “We’re talking less than .09 percent here. There’s one When Harry Met Sally for every 3 million Katherine Heigl movies.”

My first thought was ... but what about The Notebook, Notting Hill, Elizabethtown, A Walk to Remember, You’ve Got Mail and Serendipity? Just those movies alone change her statistics. My second thought was ... why is comedy tied to romance in this particular genre of film? It has always bugged me. My third thought was ... the “romantic comedies” that use natural humor rather than slapstick humor are much better.

Maybe that’s where so many rom-coms have gone astray.

Love is funny and scary and invigorating. It provides for natural comedy – the kind that makes you giggle on the inside and maybe outside, not the kind that makes you slap your knee. It’s the moment when the guy stammers for something intelligent to say as he tries to win the affections of a woman. It’s the nervous laughter over a meal as each person drops their guard an inch at a time. It’s the embarrassing giggle that results from good friends seeing two people falling in love and saying so.

There’s a scene in The Notebook in which Allie and Noah, who are on their first date, go to a movie with another couple. Noah spends more time watching Allie than the movie, so it’s pretty clear where he stands. Allie notices, and smiles. As the four of them head for the parking lot afterward, the couple gets into the car while Noah whispers “You wanna walk with me?” into Allie’s ear. She says she does.

“What’re you guys doing?” the guy says. “Get in.”

“Yeah, what’s going on?” the girls says.

“We’re gonna walk,” Noah says. 

“Do you guys love each other?” the guys says.

Noah laughs and bends over in embarrassment. Allie approaches the car and hugs her girlfriend.

“Oh, I get it, you guys do love each other,” the guys says.

“Okay, goodbye,” Noah says.

In that one scene, Noah stammers, has a nervous laugh and shows embarrassment. And all three reactions ring true. Those are the movies I want to see over and over.

Compare that to a slap your knee type of rom-com like Paul Blart: Mall Cop about a security guard who rides a mall on a scooter trying to win the affections of a woman who works there but is unable to do so. Lucky for him though, he must have seen all of the Die Hard movies because he single handedly defends the mall from robbers – at one point putting a Hello Kitty Band-Aid over a tiny cut he gets from falling through an air duct.

The movie has its moments, but for the most part, it makes you laugh and then you forget about it. The plot is too goofy to make you care. But there’s value in laughing in the moment. And like Rowell, since I’m sucker for rom-coms, I’ll go see that type of rom-com because it does make me laugh, but it’ll never be a movie I want to see over and over.

That’s the difference for me.


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