Movies – Can “Romantic Comedy” Survive the 21st Century?


Romantic comedies survived WW2 and the 20th Century nicely, becoming the staple entertainment items of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” Cary Grant alone has made enough romantic comedies to last us for a while… THE AWFUL TRUTH, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, HOLIDAY, THE GRASS IS GREENER, OPERATION PETTICOAT, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, MY FAVORITE WIFE, HOUSEBOAT… the list goes on and on.

Starting in the late 50s and continuing through the 60s, we have the “Pillow Talk” genre of rom-coms. Who can forget the Doris Day – Rock Hudson magic? It was great while it lasted.

Zoom ahead to our day – what do we have? Has anyone watched a good romantic comedy since the monumental achievement of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989) and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993), both written by Nora Ephron, and the latter also directed by the same?

YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998) was one time too many Ephron tried to create the same “Sleepless” magic. As gifted a writer and director as she was, even Nora Ephron could not pull the rom-com rabbit out of her hat whenever she wanted. And I’m afraid it’s getting harder by the day.

How can we have true comedy, and especially romantic comedy, when the world seems to be exploding at the seams? With all these wars, international terrorism, global warming, nuclear proliferation, unheard of pandemics, who has the heart to celebrate the innocence of a romantic comedy?

One alternative is to recombine rom-com with other genres, like the rom-com-action-thriller experiment MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005). I give that genre-saddling approach another ten years and then perhaps we may have to do with rom-com-horror and rom-com-sci-fi anomalies masquerading as the original thing.

Buckle your seatbelts, kids. Romantic comedy could be a rough ride in the years ahead.