The cliché-riddled romantic comedy: It’s a movie category that was practically invented for Valentine’s Day, an occasion that embraces the notion of romances requited, love triangles that get unrealistically resolved and long-simmering feelings that culminate with a kiss during a torrential downpour.
Anyone who appreciates love stories that defy or at least overcome convention — your “Before Sunrises,” your “Moonstrucks” — may be frustrated by the boy-meets-girl pablum Hollywood continues to slap onto our multiplex screens. And rightfully so.
But on this Feb. 14, a day when our ordinarily solid judgment will likely be clouded by our non-stop consumption of chocolate, cupcakes and candy hearts, let’s celebrate 10 of the tropes of the modern-day rom-com. Or at least celebrate them sarcastically. Because, darn it, it is your fundamental right as a human being to spend this day watching a crummy flick starring Hugh Grant and/or Julia Roberts.
The spontaneous song
For some reason, people in romantic comedies often burst into spontaneous song. Sometimes they do this in the privacy of their own homes. Other times, as we can see in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” they do it in the middle of restaurants, a development that delights other diners who clearly were hoping someone would interrupt the salad course by loudly crooning “I Say a Little Prayer for You.”
The spontaneous dance
Love makes people in movies wiggle their hips. Especially when those people are Hugh Grant, and Hugh Grant is the prime minister of England, and a Pointer Sisters song happens to start playing
The spontaneous Michael Jackson dance
It's happened to all of us: Something traumatic occurs during a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven so you make a wish and all of a sudden — boom — you’re a 13-year-old living inside a hot 30-year-old’s body, working at a glossy New York magazine, harboring romantic feelings for Mark Ruffalo and unaware that it’s no longer the ’80s.
As we all know, and as the movie “13 Going on 30” reminds us, the only way to respond in such situations is by doing the Thriller dance.
Hilarious awkward physical comedy
In “The Proposal,” Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Reynolds’s supervisor, a woman who forces him to be her fiance and pretend he’s in love with her. Which is a textbook case for why companies have human relations departments. The important thing, though, is that this ruse inevitably leads to riotous shenanigans involving what we all came here to see: semi-nudity.
Here’s an idea: Let’s run through an airport
One would have thought that post-9/11, the notion of someone racing through an airport to profess one’s undying love would have disappeared. I mean, the security line alone makes this already unrealistic scenario a serious headache. But as the movie “Valentine’s Day” proves, this trope is still alive, well and on perpetual standby when hack screenwriters need a climactic romantic reunion. (Bonus points for an additional trope: the fact that Ashton Kutcher is attempting to profess his love for Jennifer Garner, who plays a school teacher, the occupation of choice for many rom-com heroines.)
When you’re renting a quaint cottage in Surrey, it’s 100 percent guaranteed that the brother of the owner of said cottage will randomly show up, and that he will look like Jude Law. At least that’s how it works in “The Holiday,”a movie that also helpfully explains the concept of a meet-cute, via a screenwriter played by Eli Wallach.
A last-minute realization as an incredibly expensive wedding is about to start
Is it weirder that Reese Witherspoon’s divorce attorney shows up as she’s walking down the aisle in “Sweet Home Alabama,” that she suddenly decides she’d rather stay married to Josh Lucas or that Patrick Dempsey is strangely okay with all of it? Or, wait, that Candice Bergen gets punched in the face?
Incredibly awesome homes
Some people may have gotten all swoony about the unlikely romance between Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give.” But I’d guess that even more individuals got hot and bothered because of Keaton’s kitchen, just one example of the gorgeous places in which rom-com characters so often reside. We all pine for the granite countertops and center islands we’ve never had, don’t we?
Wow, that got me in the mood. I’m going to add a clip from “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?” purely so we can all bask in the beauty of the Bahamas beach house where Janet Jackson and co. constantly argued with their significant others.
The grand gesture
Sometimes it involves candles and rose petals. Other times, Rick Grimes from “Walking Dead” shows up and makes a love confession using flashcards. Or in “The Wedding Singer,” it means that Adam Sandler will make Drew Barrymore cry by singing about growing old with her over an airplane PA system, with an assist from Billy Idol.
I love you. Let’s make out in the rain.
“Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.”
Honorable mention for the ending of “Someone Like You,” which pulls off a rom-com hat trick
Sadly, I could not track down a clip of this. But let’s give it up for this Ashley Judd/Hugh Jackman romance that closes with a confession on live television, Judd chasing Jackman’s taxi, and a climactic kiss, all while Van Morrison’s song “Someone Like You” (title of the movie!) is playing on the soundtrack. If only it had been raining.
What’s your favorite rom-com trope? The rom-com you repeatedly watch even though you acknowledge that it’s full of lame clichés? Share by posting a comment.