For many movie fans in relationships, Valentine’s Day will probably involve enduring a crappy romantic comedy with your Significant Other. I say “crappy” because, frankly, the vast majority of rom-coms are soul-crushingly awful movies. In today’s Roundtable, we highlight some of the worst of this genre we’ve suffered through.
This is a tricky topic this week, as I’d like to think I’ve managed to avoid most of the truly horrible rom-coms that have come down the pike in the last couple of decades. However, one that I got sucked (or is that “suckered”?) into seeing was 2009’s godawful ‘Bride Wars‘ – a movie I was interested in thanks to my then (but no more) love of all-things, Anne Hathaway. This one features Anne and co-star Kate Hudson as two girls who schedule their weddings on the same day at the same location. Hijinks ensue. Humor does not.
Before he returned to TV to host ‘Late Night’, Jimmy Fallon went the route of so many ‘SNL’ alumni before him – he made terrible movies. In the case of ‘Fever Pitch‘, he teamed with my least favorite filmmaking brothers, the Farrellys, to adapt a book by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. Hornby’s books have been transferred to America beautifully in the past, and even here, changing the love story of a fanatical football (soccer) fan to that of a fanatical baseball fan was all well and good. But the needless Farrelly gags, the complete lack of chemistry between Fallon and Drew Barrymore, and Fallon’s hopelessness as an actor all made this film flat-out bad.
M. Enois Duarte
One of the most painful rom-coms I’ve had to watch was ‘Mr. Wrong‘. As talented as Ellen DeGeneres may be, she is not in any way, shape or form a convincing romantic lead. Playing opposite her is Bill Pullman, whose character starts off as the man of her dreams but quickly turns into a nightmare. The only things of interest in this are that the movie was directed by Nick Castle (famous for being “The Shape” in the original ‘Halloween’), and that the movie is a rare mix of rom-com and very dark comedy. The story is ultimately an unfunny series of cruel, humiliating events, and DeGeneres is always at the receiving end of the punishment. The whole film leaves a nasty taste in my mouth and is just about the worst thing you could watch on Valentine’s Day.
This topic brought to mind one of the worst movies that I’ve ever seen, and in the theater no less. It should be a given that ‘Good Luck Chuck‘ is neither funny nor romantic, but the movie goes to another level wherein the cast must be crippled by shame anytime someone reminds them that they starred in this. Dane Cook plays a hard-luck dentist, and Jessica Alba is a so-clumsy-it-hurts marine biologist. They slog through one painful scene after another. With plenty of visible boom mics, the movie trudges along, insulting both good and bad relationships. All the while, Dan Fogler somehow manages to make the movie worse in each of his scenes. Frankly, I felt bad writing about ‘Good Luck Chuck’, as it’s only notable at all as a cautionary tale of how badly a romantic comedy can go off the rails.
This topic is hard because there are so many examples to choose from. The easy answer would be to go with any given Nicholas Sparks adaptation, but I have to pick the movie named after this holiday: ‘Valentine’s Day‘. What an utter waste. It had the potential to be an Americanized version of ‘Love Actually’, but is instead wasted with cliché, horribly one-dimensional characters and sappy manipulation.
Let’s see what I can remember from it: The man that we think soldier Julia Roberts is shooting Bradley Cooper down for is actually her son (ahhhhhh); Jessica Alba wants to divorce Ashton Kutcher when she realizes that he’s the douche from all the camera commercials; Jessica Biel has something to do with sports; Bradley Cooper plays a gay character; two old people watch a movie together in a cemetery; Taylors Swift and Lautner play a nerdy on-screen couple (a la Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez); and Emma Roberts wants to lose her virginity. Muddled and congested, nothing works. A movie about one of these individual storylines may have worked (emphasis on “may”), but none of them come together in this amateurish screenplay.
‘You’ve Got Mail‘ should be a great movie. It has Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, a tried-and-true romantic pairing. It also has a great supporting cast including Greg Kinnear, Steve Zahn, Parker Posey and Jean Stapleton. Heck, even Dave Chappelle’s in there. It was also written and directed by Nora Ephron, a fabulous rom-com writer. Yet, I cannot like this movie.
Have you seen ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan? You should. It’s a great classic. The basic plot is that two employees of a little department store in Czechoslovakia don’t get along well but unknowingly become pen-pals. They get to know each other through their letters and agree to meet. Romantic comedy ensues. Or how about the classic movie musical ‘In the Good Old Summertime’ with Judy Garland and Van Johnson? Same plot, but set in a music store… hence plenty of opportunities for song and dance. Another great romantic comedy if you like musicals.
Then ‘You’ve Got Mail’ comes along and tries to re-imagine this story that has already been done well twice by Hollywood legends. This is dangerous territory that Nora got herself into. She’d done much better in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, which was more an homage to classic films. To update the plot, instead of having the pair be pen-pals, in the most conspicuous brand placement ever, they’re email/chat pals who use AOL. Those of us who lived through AOL never want to be reminded of it again.
The primary reason this movie is like nails on a chalkboard is that the script tries to take on the topic of local businesses vs. corporate chains. Meg’s character owns an independent bookstore and Tom Hanks runs the national chain that’s putting independents out of business. As they get to know each other, the debate between independent/corporate comes up and then gets smoothly glossed over. The topic is big and heavy, and for me it swallows the movie whole. It has no place in a romantic comedy and Ephron would have done better by sticking with the original plot of two characters in a shop. Perhaps they could have worked at Radio Shack.
What Junie said. ‘You’ve Got Mail’ is atrocious. Not only does it get lost in the small store/big chain theme, it ultimately ends with the suggestion that independent businesses are an obsolete notion and everyone is so much happier when faceless corporations come in and swallow everything up. I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise in a movie produced by Warner Bros. that only existed to be an extended advertisement for AOL, in order to facilitate that firm’s impending acquisition of parent company Time Warner. (And we know how well that worked out in the long run.)
In addition to that, at Mrs. Z’s suggestion, I’ll also throw in a mention for ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding‘. In one of her most hateful roles, Julia Roberts plays a manipulative sociopath who schemes to sabotage the nuptials of her old college friend because she’s decided that he belongs with her instead. That’s not even the bad part. What’s really reprehensible about the movie is its regressively sexist treatment of the female characters, who simply must get married lest they wait too long and no man will have them. This is especially disturbing in regard to the friend’s fiancée, a bright and charming younger girl (Cameron Diaz) who is expected to drop out of college and give up any life of her own now that she’s landed a man. The movie doesn’t even question this. That’s just what a woman is supposed to do. Why would she need an education or a career when she can have a husband? A husband, I should add, who doesn’t even seem particularly committed to her, and makes it clear that he could easily dump her and run off with Roberts. This is a horrid movie.
Surely you’ve endured some bad rom-coms in your day. Tell us about them in the Comments.
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