I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the current state of the romantic comedy is not so good. It’s been steadily deteriorating since the rise of the soulless overstuffed ensemble holiday movie and the beginning of the dark reign of Katherine Heigl. Meg Ryan has been ritualistically sacrificing her face in protest for years.
Romcom junkies like myself mourned the passing of our patron saint, Nora Ephron, by breaking out the classics. When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle are the gold standard. But there was a time when Hollywood was kinder to us, and also churned out a series of relatively cheap and mostly inoffensive romantic comedies that are now largely relegated to the Wal-Mart $3.99 DVD bin. I’m here to point out a few of those films that deserve a better fate. Read on for six romcoms that I deem tragically underrated.
If you watched Just Friends once and thought it was just okay, I beg you to watch it again. And then watch it three more times. And from that point on, you will think it’s the funniest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen. It’s just that kind of movie.
Just Friends has everything you need in a Saturday afternoon Comedy Central movie: Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit; Anna Faris as a psychotic Britney-esque pop star (“You and I are gonna be the greatest musical manager team since Jessica Simpson and her father. Only you and I get to reooowr and they can’t, ’cause it’s illegal. I looked it up.”); the mom from What About Bob?; and some ruminations on whether we can ever truly escape high school.
It’s also immensely quotable, both in surprisingly clever one-liners (“You’re Chris Brander. You’re Hollywood, you date models. He’s Jersey, he skis in his jeans.”) or nonsensical outbursts (“TJ!”) And bonus for this time of year: it’s a Christmas movie! That means it will be on cable thousands of times over the next week, and you can quickly knock out the recommended number of viewings. PS: …Anna Faris.
Bob’s beloved wife Elizabeth dies in a car accident. Grace (Minnie Driver) is very sick, but gets Elizabeth’s heart in a transplant. Bob is completely destroyed until he meets Grace, who basically brings him back to life. The premise of this one is saccharine for sure (it’s the SAME HEART THAT LOVES HIM ALL ALONG), but don’t let it put you off. Return to Me is so simple and gorgeous, it’s stuns me every time I watch it. It’s a charmingly old-fashioned film completely devoid of irony and cynicism.
That’s not to say that Return to Me lacks raw emotion. Nope, nope, nope. Elizabeth’s death is brutal, and the movie lets poor Bob (and their dog, sob) mourn her. My favorite part is after Bob has first meets Grace and he makes an excuse to go back to her family’s Irish-Italian (yes) restaurant where she works. He gets on a step stool, takes a box down from a closet shelf, brushes off the dust, and puts on his good shoes for the first time in who knows how long. All my creys. No movie like this would be greenlit today, and that makes me incredibly sad.
Return to Me‘s other charms include: David Alan Grier and the fabulous Bonnie Hunt; signing gorillas; a Dean Martin-heavy soundtrack, obviously; the cutest old people YOU WILL EVER SEE; and permanent entry on my Common Law Top 5: David Duchovny.