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So Bad It's Good: "You Had Me At Hello" - Why I Love Romantic Comedies

'The Proposal' (2009) movie poster

Movie watching is the game, and rom-com is the name.

I love romantic comedies — pretty much all of them. It’s like comfort food for the soul. However, many movie critics believe writers and directors rarely get this genre right. I say, who cares? Rom-coms may not be overly sophisticated or thought provoking, yet sometimes the moment just warrants a sweet, sappy, funny, and simple tale. The genre is wide and spans the spectrum from true genius to quirky to sweet to raunchy to slapstick madness. You’re bound to like one somewhere in the mix.

The best part of the genre is that they are intended to be fun. Who doesn’t like fun?

I do get it why some people groan at the thought of rom-coms. The storylines are a titch unrealistic and can be shallow and stereotypical, but not every film needs to be Oscar-winner worthy. Just enjoy them for what they are — chock-full of clichés and with an utterly predictable, templated formula replicated time and again. They start with two people who could be attracted to one another placed in a scenario where they are not fond of one another or are opposites or maybe even hate each other. Give them time to grow on each other. Add to the mix some odd-ball or wacky friend or family member who either push them together or apart. Bring in some adversity that the characters must overcome, and finally, the grand romantic gesture. Bam! It’s a proven recipe. That said, there are endless possibilities to this recipe and the journey to get to the ending is what makes it interesting.

So, let’s be honest and not take ourselves too seriously:

  • Are most romantic comedies literary works of genius? Not usually, but do they need to be? I think not.
  • Will it make you smarter? Meh, probably not and that is perfectly fine too.
  • Does it need to enhance your livelihood beyond the 90 minutes the film runs? No.
  • Will it make your partner incessantly mock the substance? Uh, yep! (Sometimes that is part of the fun too)
  • Does it provide some sort of warm, fuzzy, contentment feeling? Yes. Yes, it does. And that is probably the most important quality of rom-coms.

If you are anything like me, you think and assess everything to the nth degree all day long. When my brain is tired, I just want to chill out. Particularly in these days of isolation, I want escapism, predictability in a storyline, to dream, see resolution, and feel happiness before I lay my head on that pillow at night. Between the typical tropes, cheesiness, meet-cutes, occasional choreographed dance routines, and fairytale endings, yes, my guilty pleasures are rom-coms of all shapes and sizes. I love to laugh and feel like everything is right with the world.

Below is a sample of my go-to So Bad It’s Good rom-coms that keep me coming back for more. As it turns out, I like a plethora of rom-coms… the good, the bad, and the ugly. And sometimes, they are U-G-L-Y. I actually wasn’t even aware how low some of the critics’ ratings were on a few of these films until I started to dive a little deeper. But don't let that stop you from enjoying what this genre has to offer!

The Cutting Edge (1992)

This story takes you on a journey of a pretentious, brash, and talented figure skater, Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly), who has driven away every partner she has had as the Winter Olympics quickly approach. Out of sheer desperation she is left with a rough-around-the-edges, sidelined ex-hockey player, Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) to fill that void. Now if you know anything about hockey or figure skating, they are polar opposites, which makes this story that much more farfetched. Figure skating is artistic and a mix between dancing and gymnastics on ice, whereas hockey takes agility but is rough and tough (can you tell that as a little kiddo I dreamt of being an Olympic figure skater? If you sensed it, it’s true… and it was very short lived, but nonetheless I sure do love a solid ice-skating movie).

Formulaic and predictable as you can imagine, the pair train intensely over long months, argue (“toe pick!”), create teamwork, master the Pamchenko twist, begin to fall in love without realizing it, find common respect and admiration for one another, and accomplish amazing things on the rink. Cue up the warm and fuzzies. Realistic? Not the slightest. But for one moment, all is right with the world.

Tropes Include:

  1. Underdog in Training
  2. Incompatible Love

Critic Reviews:

  • Mixed reviews among movie critics upon release. Critics claimed it was too predictable and that it had been done before.
  • Robert Ebert gave it a 2.5 stars.
  • IMDB Rating: 6.9/10

The Proposal (2009)

Confronted with deportation back to her native Canada, tenacious, caustic, and high-power NYC book editor Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) tries to solve her dilemma by falsely claiming she is engaged to marry her assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds). Andrew tries working his way out of this predicament, but Margaret insists that it will be a short-lived marriage and not to worry. Following the trope of fake relationships, Andrew agrees to the sham under a few conditions including securing his own book deal, along with flying to Alaska to meet his family and celebrate his grandma’s birthday played by my fave, Betty White. With a suspicious immigration official hot on their heels, they must move forward with their wedding plans to prove that their love is real. Through numerous mishaps, moments of silliness, and Betty White one liners, we watch this emotionally unavailable person transform into a loving one, and as a result, they find mutual respect and affection for one another.

So as unrealistic and predictable as this movie is, and truly problematic if it were to happen IRL, I appreciate the ridiculousness for what it is. I am a fan of the cast (did I mention I adore Betty White?). I also love the fact that it feels nice to believe in people’s ability to evolve into cherishing the importance of family and friendships, while finding their inner teddy bear underneath the gruff exterior. And for one moment, all is right with the world.

Tropes Include:

  1. Fake Relationship Turned Real
  2. Rough Exterior Covering Ooey-Gooey Center

Critic Reviews:

The Sweetest Thing (2002)

The Sweetest Thing is a story of three friends in their 20s (Christina Applegate, Cameron Diaz, and Selma Blair), living in San Francisco and all they want to do is party and have a good time. When it comes to relationships and dating, their motto is to avoid searching for “the one” and focus on the one right now. During one evening of club hopping, Christina (Cameron Diaz) meets Peter (Thomas Jane) and the two hit it off. However, Peter fails to accurately express that the wedding he is attending that weekend is not in fact his obnoxious brother’s wedding, but his own. Oops! Unknowing of the circumstance, Christina tries to contact him to no avail. Her best friend Courtney (Christina Applegate) convinces Christina to take a road trip to find him. Through raunchy and goofy misadventures, they begin to realize maybe it’s time to start to grow up just a little bit.

When the movie was released in 2002, it was dubbed as one of the worst films for that year. Roger Ebert stated, “The plot is merely the excuse, however, for an astonishing array of sex and body-plumbing jokes, nearly all of which dream of hitting a home run like ‘There's Something About Mary,’ but do not.” The interesting part to me is that this concept of gross humor from a female perspective was not only new at the time, but it was definitely frowned upon by movie critics. In some odd way it was pioneering. I still find myself watching it every so often because it doesn’t take itself seriously, which is refreshing. I also love the female cast, despite it not being their most accomplished work. Even though it is a rom-com highlighting the Christina and Peter relationship, I can’t help but smile at the love between friends — the inside jokes, the adventures, memories created, the non-judgmental respect they hold for each other, and the fun they create in just being in each other’s presence. And again, I am left feeling, all is right with the world.

Tropes Include:

  1. Adults Who Can't Get Their Acts Together
  2. Supportive Friends Who Are Sometimes Misguided

Critic Reviews:

The Wedding Planner (2001)

I love JLO and her movies. She’s timeless, beautiful, a triple threat, an original Fly Girl, and literally does not age. Can someone please tell me her secret???

Much to my sadness, I discovered that most movie critics aren’t fans of her rom-coms; not The Wedding PlannerMaid In ManhattanThe Back-up Plan, or Monster-in-Law.

So, let’s narrow it down to The Wedding Planner. I have watched this flick more times than I care to count.

Mary Fiore (Jennifer Lopez) is a high-powered, ambitious wedding planner for the rich and famous. She approaches her work with intensity, meticulously planning every detail with precision and never breaks a sweat. When one day her stiletto heel gets stuck in a street drain and she narrowly escapes a runaway dumpster thanks to a good Samaritan who saves her life. Unbeknownst to Mary, Steve (Matthew McConaughey), the Knight in Shining Armor who just so happens to be a doctor, is the groom-to-be of one of her clients. Yikes! Could this be trouble? Of course, it is. They make googly-eyes, dance in a park, and Mary is quite smitten by the end of their (one) evening together. The entire meet-cute is a classic damsel in distress scene, which can be annoying, sweet or both, but either way it is firmly anchored in fantasyland.

Fran (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) later introduces Mary to Steve during a wedding planning session, and while Mary controls her emotions, she lets Steve know privately she thinks he is awful for leading her on. Through various excursions and mishaps along the way, feelings begin to grow, and let the love triangle trope begin. *Spoiler alert* — love develops, people are oddly mature about it and, of course, all is right with the world.

Tropes Include:

  • Love Triangle

Critic Reviews:

For more So Bad It’s Good rom-coms, check out the below!

 So, what are some of your favorite So Bad It’s Good romantic comedies?

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About the author

Alexis Lee is MoPOP's Executive Director.