We are only into the sixth week of 2010, and we are about to get our third romantic comedy this weekend in the form of Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day. With the eponymous holiday coming up on Sunday, you can be sure that boyfriends around the world will be dragged to see the ensemble film. Come Monday, however, studio executives over at Warner Bros. won't be expecting said guys to be gushing about the film to their friends: they know who their target audience is, and it ain't the ones with dangly parts. It doesn't exactly come off as manly to admit to your friends that you cried a bit when the dreamboat finally admitted his everlasting love to the 30-something workaholic who always put her job before her love life. So what about romantic comedies that man can actually admit to seeing and owning without committing a man violation? You're in luck, because I have thought of fifteen of them.
The Princess Bride
Yes, it is the story of true love between a girl and a farm boy who will wade through all forms of troubled waters to be with each other. So why shouldn't men be embarrassed to watch it? Cause Peter Falk says so and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and listen while you bad mouth Columbo. The Princess Bride is that rare film that actually assures its male audience that they won't grow a vagina by enjoying it, and that is the truth. With sword fighting, torture, giant wrestlers, revenge and rodents of unusual size, it almost makes you wonder what the women folk see in this movie. Oh yeah, Cary Elwes.
Cameron Crowe's directorial debut tackled what would, by most standards, be considered a cliché romance: the average, somewhat popular guy going after the ultimate girl next door. They get together, the girl's father disapproves, they break up and he tries to win her back. Normally this is the stuff date night movies are made of and typically put thoughts of suicide in the mind of any guy who has to sit through 120 minutes of it, but it actually breaks the mold and is totally acceptable without an XX chromosome on the other side of the couch. This is a growing up story as much as it is a romantic comedy and every guy on Earth has been in Lloyd's shoes. We have all tried to build something with someone we cared about only to see it all crash and burn just as fast (and not all of us get a pen as compensation). Even if you can't relate to that experience, however, Peter Gabriel on a raised boombox has given boyfriends a cheap alternative to chocolates and flowers for more than twenty years now. You're welcome.
You're going to hear about this title A LOT in the next coming days as every reviewer and their grandmother is going to use it as their base to judge Valentine's Day. But what the hell could be masculine about a bunch of British people, including the likes of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, falling in love with each other? How about Bill Nighy has a foul-mouthed, asshole pop singer? A couple that falls for each other while working as nude stand-ins for a movie? A fivesome with January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth and Ivana Milicevic? You know that last one got your attention. The film is also quite funny to boot, and you have be completely soulless, testicles or no, to not enjoy the relationship between Liam Neeson and his step-son.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Much like romantic comedies have been generally geared towards the womenfolk, science fiction is largely targeted towards guys, and there really isn't ever any crossover. Rick Deckard, Luke Skywalker, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner all made it through their respective films/series without a significant other. Cognizant of this fact or not, Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry blended the two in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and created a film that any dude can proudly display on his DVD shelf. Much like Say Anything…, the movie takes an entirely relatable situation, the deterioration and ultimate end of a relationship, and warps the most common break-up thought in the world: I wish I could just forget about her. The film's structure and cinematography as Clementine and Joel run through past memories is enough to justify owning and watching this movie.
Most Of Kevin Smith's Filmography
Yes, they're crude, obscene, and occasionally disgusting, but most Kevin Smith's movies are also, at their root, romantic comedies. Think about it: the key conflicts in both Clerks films is Dante's inability to decide whether he should be with his current girlfriend or be with another. Mallrats is about two guys who have been dumped and, while using the mall as a coping mechanism, try and repair their relationships. Zack and Miri Make A Porno is about two friends who discover that they have long had feelings for one another. Do I really have to explain Chasing Amy? These are all classic romantic comedy storylines, just hidden behind hermaphroditic porn and interspecies erotica. There's no shame in that.
Apparently John Cusack has a superpower that allows him to transform the most feminine genre outside of period pieces and musicals into a masculine affair. Or maybe we just like seeing him get dumped. Who knows. What I do know is that no guy should ever feel embarrassed about watching High Fidelity. As much as the movie is about Rob Gordon's love life and all time, top five most memorable break-ups, the film's subtext regarding music's effect on everyday life is far from exclusively feminine. Throw in the snarky, career-making performance by Jack Black and a rich fantasy about crushing the head of your ex's new boyfriend with an air conditioner and you have a movie that is better suited to be watched in the living room instead of your windowless basement.
Love, Tarantino-style. This is not your typical romantic comedy, and I say that knowing that it is the only one that features James Gandolfini being blown away with a shotgun, Brad Pitt as a stoner who smokes out of a honey bear, and Gary Oldman as a Rastafarian pimp. You shouldn't be embarrassed to watch this movie; you should be embarrassed that your love life isn't as cool as this movie.
There's Something About Mary
Standard male-led romantic comedy procedure says that you should have, at most, two guys going after the same girl: one being the hero, the other being the antagonist. There's Something About Mary says, “fuck that” and has no less than six guys hunting for the affection of Cameron Diaz (back before she became an annoying asshat and making movies with Ashton Kutcher). It isn't this rule change that makes it socially acceptable for guys, however. It's the fact that it is absolutely hilarious. In classic Farrelly fashion, there are plenty of slapstick gags (Stiller's classic battle with the drugged border terrier) and more than enough gross out humor (the zipper, 'nuff said) that women would probably be more likely to be embarrassed by it than men.
Shaun of the Dead
Just as Gondry and Kaufman spliced sci-fi into the field, Shaun of the Dead is Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's attempt to introduce a bit of horror. The result was the birth of the zom-rom-com, by far my favorite hyphenated genre. The film's romantic conflict is simple (slacker tries to win back his lost paramour by showing he can change), but is placed on the background of a Romero-style zombie apocalypse. Unless you pee yourself whenever you watch an undead creature rip the guts out of someone's stomach, feel free to express your love of this film at the drop of a hat.
Pretty Much Every Movie From The Apatow Crew
Much like the works of Kevin Smith, these aren't the movies that immediately spring to mind in casual conversation, but that's because these movies were made for lists like these (not really, but you get the point). All of these movies have their gentler sides (Andy's first date with Trish in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Ben's growing relationship with Alison in Knocked Up, Peter's recovery with Rachel after getting dumped in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, etc.) that keep the films in genre, but have the nudity, videogames, marijuana and all things generally classified as “guy humor.” No need to hide your appreciation of Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill or Paul Rudd, gentlemen.
Romancing the Stone
Let us now head back to that wonderful decade called the 80s, when Robert Zemeckis was still making movies with characters who appeared to have souls (though we all know real actors are dead inside). Before he made a name for himself with Back To The Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Zemeckis directed Romancing The Stone, a romantic comedy set in Colombia. Honestly, I feel sorry for any man who walked past their local theater and saw that title with this poster. Going solely by those two items alone, the film looks like a standard schlocky romance novel adapted for the big screen. I feel sorry for that man because he didn't go see the movie. What he missed was a great adventure flick with Michael Douglas playing a badass, an in-her-prime Kathleen Turner and a great turn by Danny DeVito. Feel free to have this one in your DVD collection, sirs. Just turn it so that only the spine is showing.
10 Things I Hate About You
What's even more insufferable for men than a standard romantic comedy? A standard romantic comedy starring teenagers. When watching a 30-year-old woman complain about not having a man in your life, the average male wants to leave the theater, but when that same situation is placed on a 16-year-old girl, there is a desire to flee as though you are being chased by this thing. 10 Things I Hate About You doesn't have that effect (nor does it deliver the blight of arachnophobia!) Based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, this adaptation replaces whining teenagers with funny dialogue, engaging characters, and a platform where some of today's best talent got their foothold (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Heath Ledger (RIP), Julia Stiles and David Krumholtz to name a few.) Some assholes may give you shit about it, but that most likely means they haven't seen it. Sit them down, watch it, and punch them in the face when they admit to actually liking it. Then, perhaps, you should sit him down for…
(500) Days of Summer
Yes, Gordon-Levitt is the only other actor that appears on this list twice. Does that mean he is Generation Y's Cusack? That's for another article; we're here to talk about (500) Days of Summer. Much like Eternal Sunshine did, the film tells the story of a relationship in non-linear fashion, mixing the good times and the bad. It is one of the more honest films about relationships that has ever been made, fully grasping what it is like to both be happy and miserable in a relationship, something anybody can relate to including the most masculine of guys. The film has only been out on DVD for a few months now and only got a limited release stateside, but this is a movie that you can proudly put on your Netflix queue.
Lost In Translation
If you took anything away from Zombieland, it should have been that Bill Murray will always be cooler than you, no matter how old he gets. This was proven in Lost in Translation. It certainly is not your typical romantic comedy, most notably because the relationship between Bob and Charlotte is not so much about love as it is about truly understanding where the other is coming from. They are both stranded far from home, Bob filming commercials and Charlotte's husband off at different photo shoots, and when they meet they find a connection that they can't find anywhere else in Tokyo. The film doesn't have the same level of “guy humor” as some of the previous entries on this list (though the “lip my stockings” scene comes damn close), but I've never met a man who batted an eye at a Scarlett Johansson movie. Still have friends questioning your gender? Just tell them it won an Oscar.
It has been a while since I last read the Constitution, but I am fairly certain there is a part in there that stipulates that all lists regarding romantic comedies must have a section reserved for Annie Hall. This is me both completing my duties both as a film journalist and an American citizen. You know all those movies I listed above that featured the protagonist in a couple that sees its ups and downs, delivering an honest interpretation about male-female relationships (hint: it is just about every single one)? They wouldn't exist without this one. Arguably Woody Allen's masterpiece, this film set the bar for the modern romantic comedy and brought plenty to the table for men to enjoy independently. Between Christopher Walken's desire to run his car into a school bus full of children, the classic Marshall McLuhan scene, Alvy sneezing into his friend's box of cocaine, simply handing over his license to the police officer in California…you know what? This could go on for a while. Watch this movie as much as you like. There isn't a person on Earth who would criticize you for it.