How to spot a “vom-com” in 10 easy steps
I am not a fan of romantic comedies, or as they’re called in my living room when I’m alone and in the word for low-level wordplay: “vom-coms”. My housemates are fans of romantic comedies, however, and often offer up their DVD collections for my viewing “pleasure”.
Unfortunately, many of the DVD covers have been lost, due to the fact that my housemates may or may not have procured their movie collections via legitimate means. This means that, when I’m in the mood for a bit of Hollywood, I have a great teetering pile of almost identical discs imprinted with only a movie title to choose from.
No pictures of Matthew McConaughey leaning quirkily and sickeningly against this week’s femme. No scrolling silver script to indicate impending matrimony or whimsical flirtation. No Heigl or Aniston or Roberts or Jessica Parker on the cover looking diagonally upwards. Just titles.
Lesson learned: “Failure To Launch” has NO missiles, torpedoes or rockets in it whatsoever. Very disappointing.
See, contrary to my estrogenic programming, I like an action film. Given the choice of seeing beautiful, well-dressed people getting up to hijinx on their way to the altar or non-specifically international terrorists taking an exploding bullet to the guts, I’ll take a bullet to the guts every time.
So in order to determine just how heinously vomitous the flirtatious mayhem I’m about to watch is, I’m required either to take a punt or look the title up online. Interestingly, before clicking on any “plot synopsis” link, an anxious “Warning! Contains Spoilers!” alert often appears. Because no, it doesn’t. There is no such thing as a spoiler in a rom-com. There are basically only two different kinds of rom-com:
A. Boy and girl get together under false pretences or unusual circumstances, discover the truth, break up, and eventually get together again (often with the help of kooky best friends/housemates/work colleagues, at least one of whom is a bit fat).
B. Boy and girl used to go out but now hate each other, are thrown together by circumstances, and learn to love each other again (often with the help of kooky best friends/housemates/work colleagues, at least one of whom is a bit fat).
In a nutshell: BOY AND GIRL START OKAY, GET NOT OKAY FOR A BIT, BECOME OKAY AGAIN.
Whereas action films can be about almost anything, with only two constants: stubble and explosions. Nobody is fat except for the occasional bad guy, but much more importantly, nobody comes up with a plot to get Stacey and Dylan back together. The only thing anybody plots is how to make more explosions happen.
So the question is, when faced with just a title and possibly the names of a couple of the lead cast, how can you avoid the emotional see-saw and head straight for the ballistic C-4?
1. Do not trust Will Smith, Ryan Gosling, or John Cusack. They are notorious genre-crossers, and their presence in a movie does not guarantee firepower, screeching tyres or a bit of fisty biff. They all come with soppy schmaltz attached, and one of them even comes with Phil Collins. Even Arnie can’t always be trusted to stay on genre. Steven Seagal can. Steven Seagal can be trusted, particularly if you’re not fussy about gaping plot holes.
2. If it has Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Jessica Parker or Kate Hudson in it, it is not an action movie. Not a good one, anyway. If there are any women at all in your movie, the odds of it being war-mongeringly watchable are ever so slightly increased if they are brunette and have their hair in a ponytail. Like Steven Seagal.
3. In rom-com movie titles, men are called “guys”. In action movie titles, men are called “men”. This is, on a very basic level, because in action movies (unlike romantic comedies) there is considerable evidence that men have testicles.
4. If your movie title has the word “wedding”, “date”, or “just” in it, your movie is a pastel-coloured chick flick, unless the “just” is part of the word “justice”. Unfortunately the presence of the words “hunt”, “fire”, “dark”, “storm”, “hell” or “death” don’t guarantee an action film, because the women rom-coms are made for take their love lives very, very seriously. Like, war serious.
5. If your movie title contains a pun or reminds you of a song title, drop it like a cold litre of ice cream after a break-up. It is a chick movie. Action movie titles won’t make you think. Action movie titles are like plain white cotton underpants. They’re just the simple, plain wrapping for the good stuff.
6. Consequently, if your movie title is just a single word, it is six times more likely to contain punching than kissing. I admit to actually doing the maths on this one. Single word title = someone gets killed in the first fifteen minutes. Plus it gives that rumbling, crusty voice-over guy on the trailer something to really growl about. Love that guy. JUSTICE. HELL. ETCETERA.
7. A good point to note: hardly any romantic comedies are derived from comic books.
8. Another good point to note: hardly any good action movies are derived from comic books. They were for a while, but then all the best ones were taken, which didn’t seem to stop Hollywood from burping them out. As soon as I see Archie and Jughead fighting it out in the sweaty jungles of Guatemala, it’s over. It’s all over.
9. Buy How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days online. Never watch any of the movies the website suggests you might also like.
10. Bruce Willis.
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