March 17, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

10 romantic comedy cliches that must stop

Few Hollywood products are as reliable as the romantic comedy. By ”romantic comedy” I mean, of course, the ”date movie,” a.k.a. the ”Did I have a stroke, or haven’t I seen this all before?” flick.

Right now, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are skipping to the $100 million mark in the tepidly reviewed ”How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” And this follows such all-too-familiar fare as ”Maid in Manhattan,” ”Two Weeks Notice,” and ”Sweet Home Alabama,” all box office hits. This success means we can expect more of the same (Hudson, for one, will appear in both ”Le Divorce” and Rob Reiner’s ”Loosely Based on a True Love Story” later this year). But come on — can’t the genre find a few new twists? Thus, I offer my own brainchild: ”How to Lose Romantic Comedy Clichés in 10 Ways.”

1. Boot the busy, uptight heroine A smartly dressed city girl totters out of a taxi, cell phone glued to her perfect coif, as she rifles through her purse, perkily snaps orders to an assistant, and jams a croissant into her craw. She’s a career type, see? She’s got no time for romance. This scene generally cuts to reveal The Guy, tossing a mini-basketball in his office as he ducks a phone call from his latest conquest (that dawg!). Never again. Okay?

2. Scotch the boozy best friend (BBF) Both The Guy and The Girl can have a BBF; their purpose is to swill beer or wield martinis while making remarks about their buddy’s love life. Sometimes they’re schlubby; sometimes they’re cool and gay. Mostly they’re like a liquored, unwelcome Greek chorus.

3. No more bar bets Note to screenwriters: Real-life human beings don’t make watering-hole bets concerning other people’s love lives. Why? Because that’s weird. Having your film’s hero be someone who commissions or accepts such a wager is tougher to swallow than a tray of Long Island Iced Teas.

4. Escape from New York Unless you set your love story in Battery Park’s public urinal, there are no places in Manhattan left to plumb. We’ve seen the nightclubs, the diners, the sidewalks. And have we seen New Yorkers — that is, magazine writers, ad execs, fashionistas, all type-A characters, of course (see Cliché 1). For crying out loud, Cupid visits the flyover states too. Kansas City, for instance, is quite romantic — and the barbecue is good, too.

5. Cancel the callback. The two lovers inevitably create some sly catchphrase, the utterance of which marks the romantic comedy’s finale. Problem is, these bywords generally aren’t romantic or comedic. J. Lo and McConaughey closed ”The Wedding Planner” with a lame joke about M&M food dye. Hudson and McConaughey wrapped up ”10 Days” standing on a bridge…giggling an obscene word. Um, yuck.

6. Get over the makeover At some point, the busy, uptight heroine remembers to unclip her hair and slip into a slinky pastel dress. Who knew? She’s sexxxy! Thus, her surprised beau-to-be (who at this point stammers a lot in appreciation) is revealed to be as stupid as the Daily Planet reporters who were tricked by Clark Kent’s glasses.

7. Down with drunken wackiness The Girl hits the bottle, thereby allowing her to: hiccup cutely; rant about her successful yet lonely life; show a softer side; and generally be-smit The Guy. Let’s rethink this — last time I checked, tending to morose, pre-vomitous chicks was not tops on the male fantasy list.

8. Consider an age cap Don’t get me wrong — a smart comedy featuring thirty- or fortysomethings finding love? Great. But too often, Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant, or Sandra Bullock get jammed into the traditional cutesy romantic comedy roles, where they’re forced to flop around in frantic, frivolous twentysomething lives. We’re old enough to know better, and so are they.

9. Show a little backbone, people The understanding jiltee; the tossed-over groom; the discarded fiancé. These noble creatures suck up rejection like limp, benevolent love sponges. Wishing only the best for the girl they lost, they allow the plot to zip along — losing all credibility in the process. I mean, at least offer a few spiteful words. A frown? An angry loogie wouldn’t slow the story much, would it?

10. Rethink the chase scene Why must the couple always be so far apart when they decide they like each other? Poor McConaughey has mounted not one but two elaborate motorcycle pursuits in the past year. I’m all for a big buildup, but can’t we try something new? I see a spangly catsuit, a unicycle, and a whole lotta fun.

112 minutes
Donald Petrie
Shalom Harlow,
Michael Michele,
Bebe Neuwirth
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