Why Do So Many Romantic Comedies Suck?

A reader sent in a link to E’s interview with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (featured to the right) and the interviewer asks the two stars of the upcoming 500 Days of Summer, “Why do you think so many romantic comedies suck?” A valid question and Deschanel beats around the bush to ultimately come to the conclusion that once you tell the same story 100 different times just with different people it kind of gets old. Gordon-Levitt believes the films seem to fall into the trap of pandering to their audience rather than say something true, which sounds to me like a roundabout way of saying filmmakers are treating the audiences as idiots when they aren’t.

I haven’t seen 500 Days of Summer yet, but I have heard good things, but this question of why have romantic comedies gone so far downhill in the recent years is something I have talked about with plenty of people as of late. Even when asking Who’s the Next Big Female Movie Star? at the beginning of the week my facts concerning the success of Julia Roberts and her early career in romantic comedies show how far the genre has slipped recently. In 1990 it was Richard Gere and Julia Roberts starring in Pretty Woman, in 2008 it was Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monahan in Made of Honor and in 2009 it’s Paul Rudd and Rashida Jones in I Love You Man. Now this isn’t me judging Dempsey, Monahan, Rudd or Jones as much as I am saying they don’t compare to Gere and Roberts. However, I don’t think Gere and Roberts compare to Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934), William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934) or Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby (1938). Fact is, big name stars have left the romantic comedy genre behind and the progress is measurable over time.

Now a film like 500 Days of Summer doesn’t look like your standard rom-com, it’s got that indie feel to it, which is the originality I think Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt are both referring to. For this reason I think asking the two stars the question is a good idea, but I am not entirely sure it is relevant to the overall conversation, both are up-and-coming names in Hollywood, but neither are A-list stars.

Getting back on topic, look at what Mr. and Mrs. Smith did in 2005, $186 million and it was a romantic-comedy-actioner with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The idea of the movie star is slowly dying, but there is no denying people want to see their favorite actors in fun roles. It reminds me of David Frank’s most recent Shallow End piece titled “Welcome to the Dawn of Obamatainment” which plays on the idea that so many films became so serious and depressing during the eight years George W. Bush was in office and now the majority of people (61% according to recent polls) seem to be happy with our sitting President and maybe that means more upbeat films will come as a result. Who knows? Here’s an idea, how about a rom-com with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet? I don’t have a plot yet, but by god you put someone with half a brain to the task and I am sure we could have a winner.

Then again, with gossip blogs and Internet commenters cutting down celebrities at every turn and judging them from the anonymous comfort of their own home maybe the days of the movie star are truly dead and the hopes of getting a real romantic comedy are a wasted effort. At least we will feel empowered by hating anyone more popular than us… right?

Thanks to ‘jd’ for sending in the video link.

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