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VULTURE DROPPINGS OF THE WEEK: Winter Rom-Coms

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Every year, the month of January is a dumping ground for lame rom-coms about such fascinating subjects as weddings, fashion and unlikely courtships. After the holidays, with all those expensive blockbusters like Avatar, the studios take a breather and aim for the female demographic — the female demographic without brains, that is.

These rom-coms are cheap to produce and are essentially critic-proof. That’s why they sprout up like weeds every Winter. Natalie Portman, who can currently be seen in the intense drama Brothers, spoke out against the genre earlier this week, calling most rom-coms “offensive.”

The latest one, opening today, is Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. The poster features the two actors side by side with the tagline:

Anna planned to propose to her boyfriend on February 29th. This is not her boyfriend.

I love it. The plots are so predictable in these rom-coms that the producers are now giving the endings away in the marketing. The movies below are all equally predictable, lame and air-headed. And they were all released theatrically shortly after the holiday season in the dead of Winter.

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1. New In Town (2009)

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Talk about a movie that relies (heavily) on tired stereotypes about the Midwest. Renée Zellweger, long past her leading lady expiration date, stars as an uppity business woman from Miami who gets transferred to northern Minnesota. Hilarity is supposed to ensue as she adjusts to the frigid winter weather and clashes with her eventual blue collar love interest, a hairy Harry Connick, Jr. What ensues is actually nausea. And what a waste of a supporting cast (J.K. Simmons, Frances Conroy and Siobahn Fallon)!

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2. Two If by Sea (1996)

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The poetic title, taken from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is the only thing that Two If by Sea has going for it. Sandra Bullock may be on top now, but there was a time, oh, around 14 years ago, when she was struggling to find proper vehicles to star in. She must have thought to herself, “Hey, Denis Leary wrote the screenplay. How bad could it be? It’s gotta at least be a little bit funny, right?” Wrong!

This lame caper about two thieves/lovers on the run after doing that one last job (there’s a new one). Leary, in particular, plays a character so dumb and irritating that, not even in the movie’s universe, can you believe that a woman such as Bullock would stick with him.

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3. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

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This was Kate Hudson‘s first attempt at starring in a rom-com. She has since been in quite a few…none of them good. She had so much charm and charisma in Almost Famous that it’s a wonder why she can’t duplicate any of that here. In this overly long chick flick (it should have been titled How to be Excessively Bored in a Span of Two Hours), Hudson plays a writer for a Cosmopolitan-type magazine who’s working on a story called, you guessed it, “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.”

She then meets Matthew McConaughey (another frequenter of the lame rom-coms), a guy who’s trying to win a bet by making a girl fall in love with him in ten days (ho ho). What results is a uncomfortable farce where the two love interests are constantly going out of their way to act the opposite of how they are actually feeling. It’s the definition of an empty experience.

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4. The Wedding Planner (2001)

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Jennifer Lopez is a good actress. There’s no denying that. She has given solid performances in such films as Selena, Out of Sight and El Cantante (a project she had hoped to win an Oscar for), but when the screenplay gives her nothing to work with, she’s downright charmless.

The Wedding Planner has one of those “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” kind of plots where you can predict everything about it. Matthew McConaughey, still warming up to the genre here (although he never quite did warm up, did he?), plays the classic dream man who, of course, is getting married to the wrong woman. And poor J-Lo has to plan the wedding! If you think that she won’t be with McConaughey by the end, then you have never seen a movie before.    

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5. Over Her Dead Body (2008)

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Eva Longoria Parker follows a long line of television actresses who have tried to make that all-t00-difficult leap to the big screen. In this ridiculous and, strangely enough, maudlin rom-com, she stars a woman who meets the grim reaper prematurely and returns as a ghost to haunt the new girlfriend of his fiancé Paul Rudd. Longoria is shrill and unconvincing in every capacity and Rudd walks around like a lost boy at a grocery store. This movie aims to be a light Ghost, but ends up being a third-rate Ghost Dad.

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6. Fools Rush In (1997)

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Speaking of television actors who should stay on the small screen…Matthew Perry chose this opposite cultures attract rom-com as his fist post-Friends theatrical vehicle. It was also Salma Hayek‘s fist major role after sexing it up as a vampire stripper in From Dusk Till Dawn. Both of them might have benefited from being a tad choosier. The ole lyrics go:

Fools rush in, where angles fear to tread.”

Well, you should definitely fear to tread near this laugh-less sitcom romp. The idea of knocking up a poor but sexy Mexican woman is not inherently funny. Nor is that premise strong enough to carry an entire movie.

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7. Bride Wars (2009)

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Kate Hudson returned again to the genre that feeds her family. This time, she dragged Anne Hathaway into the mess. Bride Wars is wedding porn at very worst. Are we to believe that two grown, professional women would put so much stock into planning their weddings.

The barely there plot involves Hathaway and Hudson as hopeful brides who mistakenly schedule their weddings on the same day and in the same place. Neither of them want to change the date, so clawing, wrestling and spitting in each other’s faces follow. If How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is an empty experience, then consider this a black hole.

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