Ah, romantic comedies. Their inevitable happy endings may be predictable, but the cinematic road to love is often quite imaginative. Take this week's big release, 'Life As We Know It', for example. The premise is that a couple dies, and instead of leaving their baby with grandparents or another relative with child-rearing experience, they leave her with two attractive young singles who hate each other, played by Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel.
We all know where this is headed. Heigl and Duhamel will ultimately act out the classic "Slap Slap Kiss" scenario (as has been so succinctly described by the folks at TVTropes.org). You know what I'm talking about. They can't stand each other, and then – boom! All of a sudden they're in love and can't live without each other. I'm sure Duhamel's fun-loving, beer-swilling character will lose his penchant for fun and magically morph into a boring house-trained drone. He will realize that Heigl's uptight character represents everything he should aspire to be, and will probably ditch all of his friends in favor of quiet nights cuddling on the couch.
She, on the other hand, will probably not change. Since romantic comedies primarily target women, the premise usually hinges on the fact that the female lead is perfect and does not require any major life changes. It's those unruly men who have so much "potential" who need to change. "Potential," of course, meaning decent-looking with the ability to secure a high-paying job.
'Life As We Know It' may be the most recent example of the "Slap Slap Kiss" formula, but it certainly isn't alone. Here's a round-up of five other conspicuous offenders.
One minute, Sandra Bullock is the mean boss who forces her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her so she can stay in America. They fight, fight, fight, and then all of a sudden they kiss, kiss, kiss. What happened? Love. That's what happened. To its credit, though, 'The Proposal' has the female lead undergo all of the major personality changes instead of the male. How enlightened! Probably explains why people actually went to see this movie.
'What Happens in Vegas'
This romantic comedy gets major points for a far-fetched road to love. Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher meet when a Las Vegas hotel's computer error puts them both in the same room. How convenient! As if that wasn't fateful enough, they get drunk, apparently black out, and wake up married. He then wins big money, and she wants half. As they try to divorce, they are ordered by a court (?!?) to live together (?!?) and undergo counseling by Queen Latifah (?!?!!!). And then, voila. Love. Computer Error, Drunken Blackout, Kiss, Slap, Court Order, Slap, Kiss.
'One Fine Day'
A busy single mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) is incredibly annoyed by a forgetful single dad (George Clooney) who inadvertently ruins her day and causes both of their children to miss the bus to a school field trip. Somehow this translates into these two strangers being forced to work together to supervise each other's children. Suspend your disbelief, and boom! Pfeiffer realizes the annoying single dad is, um, George Clooney, and the two fall in love.
'Just Like Heaven'
You'll never guess how these two crazy kids meet. That's right – she's a ghost haunting his apartment! Typical. While Mark Ruffalo's character finds Reese Witherspoon's ghost annoying at first, they fall in love. But wait, humans and ghosts can't live happily ever after! No problem – turns out she was just in a coma!! Problem solved.
'Failure to Launch'
Matthew McConaughey's character is a bit of a loser. He shows little ambition, and at 35 still lives with his parents. He's so darn handsome, though. And shirtless. There must be a woman out there who can change everything about him and mold him into a socially acceptable money-chasing ladder climber! Turns out there is, and his character's parents find her. Sarah Jessica Parker's character acts as some sort of temptress who is hired by parents of underachievers to go on dates with the slackers. The thinking is that once they go on a date with a super-hot catch like SJP, they'll be too embarrassed to continue living with their parents and will be inspired to strike out on their own. Infallible logic! In this case, though, SJP falls for McConaughey-hey. He gets past his anger about her tricking him, she successfully morphs him into a "responsible" adult and they live happily ever after. Awww.