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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What is the most inappropriate setting and/or story for a romantic comedy you can think of?

Today’s question was inspired by two readers. In response to my review of The Switch, commenters began discussing the distastefulness of a light romantic comedy being spun around the notion of Jason Bateman’s passive-aggressive milquetoast “hijacking” the artificially inseminated pregnancy of the woman he secretly loves, played by Jennifer Aniston, by replacing his semen for that of the intended donor.

Reader Tonio Kruger posted this comment:

It’s been obvious for some time now that we’re not exactly living in the Golden Age of the Romantic Comedy. Indeed, ever since I saw the made-for-cable-TV movie Mrs. Winterbourne (which adapted Cornell Woolrich’s novel I Married a Dead Man into a light and fluffy romcom despite the fact that the novel in question is one of the most downbeat mystery novels ever written), it has been obvious that people in Hollywood will adapt literally anything into a romcom if they think they can get away with it.

Which was immediately followed up on by reader Orangutan, who wrote:

Now this could be an fun idea for a contest! “Create a RomCom from source material that should not be a RomCom”. Include a brief synopsis, and cast your two leads.

So there we have it:

What is the most inappropriate setting and/or story for a romantic comedy you can think of?

You can use existing source material or invent your own scenario. And don’t forget to tell us who’ll be starring!

Here’s mine:

Circling Through Hell (based on Dante’s Inferno). When Dante Albertson, a Wall Street stockbroker, is hit by a speeding taxi just after concluding a deal that involves the sale of 10,000 Haitian earthquake orphans into the child army of a Somali warlord, he finds himself in an afterlife that’s less than pleasant. In the Second Circle of Hell (Lust), he meets sweet Helen Trojan, a fashion designer condemned for all eternity because, well, God wasn’t kidding when he said, “Don’t mix fibers.” Together, they’ll encounter colorful characters and have wacky adventures as they attempt to find a way out of their eternal punishment… and perhaps find new romance with each other. Starring Topher Grace as Dante and Jessica Alba as Helen.

Have fun!

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Isobel

    That’s actually frighteningly plausible, MaryAnn, given said situation with terrible romcom settings.

    Going to have to think about how I can top this. . .

  • aquila6

    Oh, come on: Obviously a romantic comedy with Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler would take the cake.

  • gensing

    Aguila6 – I believe that’s been done… as a musical romp, no less. Springtime for Hitler, anyone?

  • He’s an HIV virus spreading through the lymphatic system of an eight-year-old and she’s a white blood cell — and she wants him to meet her parents!

    Alternatively, he’s a tentacle monster, and she’s the Japanese schoolgirl he just can’t forget.

    Not exactly an answer to your question, but a friend of mine once joked about marketing a movie as a romantic comedy, and for the first half hour or so it would be. Then, after their first night together, she wakes to find he’s vanished. She’s pissed, thinking he’s just using her as a one-night stand. She goes downstairs to get breakfast, opens the fridge — and finds his head! From there on out, it’s a tautly suspenseful mystery-thriller.

  • RogerBW

    Surely something set at the Nazi extermination camps would be thoroughly repulsive and inappropriate without even trying – no matter the characters or the actors.

    But that’s kind of easy. Since The Switch has made it clear that being a rapist doesn’t disqualify someone from being a romcom hero, perhaps:

    VO: He was just trying to rape and murder as many women as possible.

    (rainy night, backlit hulking form advances on lone misted-up parked car)

    VO: She was just his latest victim.

    (hot actress of the moment, tied up and half-naked)

    VO: But then her pleas moved his heart.

    (ditto, screaming, before shot is blotted out by chainsaw)

    VO: Everyone said they were wrong for each other (etc. et cliche cetera)

    SOMETHING IN HER SCREAMS – coming soon to a theater near you.

  • He just got out of prison after a 5 year sentence for rape. She’s his newest victim, a hard-nosed reporter with a weakness for tattooed men. They fall in love at first sight one day at a coffee shop, and he rapes her for hours and hours that night. But he’s wearing a mask so she doesn’t know it’s him!! Hijinks ensue!

    Danny Trejo and Claire Danes star.

  • Argo-Nuts: The Jason and Maddie Story

    Tag line: No one pulls the wool over her eyes!

    When her treasure-hunting husband Jason (Matthew McConaughey) “strikes gold” with another woman, it’s a fine Corinthian mess for Maddie (Kate Hudson)! This modern mom with an attitude will stop at nothing to get even with her rival Grace (Anne Hathaway), with hilarious results! With her sassy kids in tow, Maddie takes a Mediterranean cruise you’ll never forget. When all is said and done, Jason is one Greek who will never go “roamin'” again!

    Also starring Michael Keaton as Grace’s wacky dad Creon, and some of your favorite Disney Channel stars as Maddie’s adorable kids! (And don’t miss Kevin Sorbo’s cameo as Jason’s pal Herc!)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medea

  • DaveTM

    He’s the savior and she’s a reformed prostitute trying to mend her ways. Who knew that as he was saving her soul she would steal his heart. It’s The Holy Gal! starring Katherine Heigl and Hugh Jackman.

    …I’m going to hell for that one aren’t I?

  • Jester

    One Beautiful Tuesday Morning

    Dale (Josh Lucas) and Tiffany (Megan Fox) have been flirting for weeks in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, where both work. The flirting — shown in flashbacks — culminates on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning, when some unknown catastrophe shakes the office building in which both work.

    The evacuation of the offices is ordered and they, along with other employees, attempt to go down the building stairs but are prevented by an enormous fire. They retreat back up into the offices where they learn that not only has their building — the North Tower of the WTC — been struck by a plane, but they have a very clear and horrible view of the South Tower being struck by a second plane.

    There follows an hour or so of misunderstandings and hijinks as the lovers and a small collection of wacky colleagues attempt to escape the doomed building. They watch the South Tower collapse through the windows and have about 25 minutes to profess their undying adoration for each other and make sweet, sweet love on an executive’s office couch before both are tragically killed.

  • Daniel

    How about a love story that takes place onboard the Titanic?

  • kathleen

    @Daniel … that would never work . Who would watch that? *friend whispers in her ear* …oh well if you have an expensive necklace and leonardo dicaprio…

    I was working in a video store when that came out and this woman asked me if it had a happy ending before she would rent it. I said it depends on if you are rooting for the iceberg

  • Kevin

    Mary is the new girl in school after moving from Cleveland to Chicago with her mom. A social butterfly, she falls for Eugene, the cute boy in class, and they hit it off. But Mary meets a guy online named Todd and has much more meaningful conversations with him than she ever had with Eugene.

    Mirth ensues as Todd and Eugene try to win Mary’s heart, and foil each other in the process, while Mary decides which one she loves.

    Did we mention Mary and Eugene are both eleven and Todd is a thirty-eight-year-old child molester? Hilarious!

    Starring Jack Black and a couple of adorable children.

  • Isobel

    @ Jester – yep, just like Titanic, hey? God, I hate that film!

  • nyjm

    RogerBW said:
    Surely something set at the Nazi extermination camps would be thoroughly repulsive and inappropriate without even trying – no matter the characters or the actors.

    This was my first reaction – and then I remembered Life is Beautiful, which is derives so much of its power from the tension between its romantic-comedy tropes and the horror of the Holocaust camps.

    @Brian’ – that’s not inappropriate, that’s awesome!

    To be fair, I’d like to post an idea of my own, but RomComs hit my apathy button so hard that I can’t even be moved to parody them (is that a contradiction?)

    On the other hand, this one of the funniest damn series of comments I’ve read in a while. Keep ’em coming folks!

  • DaveTM

    I think I need professional help my idea is now stuck in my head and expanding.

    Judas betrays Jesus because he loves Mary and wants her for his own. She falls under his spell after the crucifixion until three days later she finds the thirty peices of silver and he confesses to her. She slaps him and runs out into the street sobbing. But there is Jesus freshly risen from the grave to meet her. He sweeps her up into his arms and carries her off into the sunset while she takes the crown of thorns off his head and puts in on her own in a homage to An Officer and a Gentleman.

  • @nyjim: Thanks! It’s awesome right up to the point of the child-murdering, then it starts getting a little uncomfortable. :-)

  • mortadella

    More inappropriate? Uh, I’ll just name drop the documentary “Zoo,” and say no more.

  • bronxbee

    @Brian: no child murdering necessary… just have the little buggers disappear for a while — maddy takes them to a spot and tells them to “stay” until she comes back for them. but the kids are chased off by some scary moment, or perhaps they think the need pita crumbs and get lost. perhaps the kids could be a B plot where they take shelter with an island of one-eyed monsters…. or travelling people. then, they can return twenty years later. a romcom has to have a ridiculously happy ending… even if it doesn’t make sense.

  • sophronia

    After I saw the documentary Crazy Love, I thought it’s probably only a matter of time before some sicko turns the Burt and Linda Puglach story into a romcom. After all, (spoiler) it all works out in the end, right?

    Starring Adam Sandler and Megan Fox, no doubt, just to make sure everyone in the audience knows whose side they’re supposed to be on.

  • Matthew

    Not a romantic comedy, but the Eva/Adolf idea was done as a sitcom in the UK:

    Heil Honey I’m Home!

    There was supposed to ironic distance supplied by the idea that it was a lost US sitcom from the 50s, but that just adds a layer of rubbishy ill-informed pastiche to the offensive central concept.

    Eight episodes were made but only one was ever shown, you can find it on youtube, I managed only a few minutes. The first ten minutes are here, but be warned it’s not at all good (in fact it has a pretty good claim to be the worst sitcom ever made).

  • @bronxbee: Yeah, the murdering part doesn’t necessarily have to happen, but I think some reckless endangerment of the kids is definitely in order, so everyone can forget about it much too quickly, and then laugh about it in the end. It would be Hi-larious!

  • DaveTM

    mortadella – in order for that to be a rom/com the horse has to be voiced by Seth Rogan.

  • Here was the worst date movie of all time:

    Flesh + Blood, directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Rutger Hauer.

    My friends (a married couple) had invited me over to their place along with a female friend of theirs in an attempt to hook us up. And they figured using a movie about raping mercenaries from the Plague-ravaged days of Europe would be the romantic film to spur on a romance.

    No frakkin dice.

    That movie was both unwatchable and a mood-killer. Nothing sparked, she went on to date someone else.

  • Orangutan

    You guys have taken my suggestion and run to all sorts of horrible, horrible places with it.

    I love this community. :D

  • Kate

    @ PaulW: Thanks for the save, that movie “Flesh + Blood” is on my dvr, described as “erotic” and “romantic,” I think. Yikes.

  • bats :[

    DaveTM: I can’t believe you’d go to hell for casting Hugh Jackman as the Big J. That boy can sing and act and dance! Perfection!

  • bats :[

    PaulW: I hesitate to break it to you, but your friends hate you and never want to see you happy.

    Nasty, nasty movie. Might be accurate, might be historical, I never want to see any of it again.

  • Lenina Crowne

    He’s ammonia. She’s bleach. They said it would never work out.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Losing His Head A saucy french wench and her lordly paramour live a life of goofs, gaffes and guillotines during the French Revolution.

    The Meltdown Boyish dreamer falls for nuclear physicist, and bluffs his way into Chernobyl, and her heart.

    Pieces of You Obsessive love in a leper colony.

    Tag, she’s it! New teacher falls for one of his students at an all-girls elementary school. Can they bridge the gap between generations and age of consent laws?

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bleach my brain with Lysol for that last one.

  • Dokeo

    @ PaulW and bad date movies:

    My husband and I met through mutual friends and the catalyst for our first date was a shared interest in seeing the movie “Auto Focus.” The trailer had a cool/quirky indie vibe and it looked interesting.

    The night of the date, dinner took longer than expected, so we switched movies: we saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – a fantastic first date movie.

    We finally watched “Auto Focus” about a year later – and it was a fairly disturbing film about sex addiction and filming sex, and relationship dysfunction (plot summary http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298744/plotsummary). It was actually a good movie, but if we had seen it that first night, I don’t think there would have been a second date!

    So, thank you, slow waiter at that Thai restaurant! You are responsible for my marriage!

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    A few last parting shots. “Mouting Olympus”. Directed by the Farrelly brothers, starring Vince Vaughn as Zeus making out with the mortals. Bonus points for a “Golden Shower” gag and crude references to Leda.

    Ah, and thanks mortasella, I know know where my friend got the “Mr. Hands” reference from.

  • The only thing I can think of right now is a movie about these guys–done entirely in this style, with a constant soundtrack of cheesy love songs throughout. And interspersed with footage of war casualties in Iraq.

    Pieces of You Obsessive love in a leper colony.

    I love it. :-)

  • PillowCaseLaw

    Even in the midst of terror and oppression, love can blossom. Meet Ben ben David, an Israeli bomb tech. He’s seen every horror imaginable in the Israel/Palestine conflict, and he leaves his heart in his footlocker every morning. But today, she will make him take it out and dust it off. Today is the day Ben meets Amel, a fetching Palestinian girl whose family has been torn apart, figuratively and literally, by strife. She only wants to die a martyr so that her family’s growing debt can be erased. He only wants to love again. Can he save her from each day’s new suicide bombing attempt and convince her that their people aren’t so different?

    Find out in this summer’s literal blockbuster, Wires are Red, Wires are Blue

    Special appearance by Jake Gyllenhaal as Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

  • Daniel

    The Three – Okay, there’s this serial killer, right and he’s being hunted by a cop. And he’s taunting the cop, right? Sending clues who his next victim is. He’s already holding her hostage in his creepy basement. So the cop gets obsessed with figuring out her identity and in the process he falls in love with her. Even though he’s never even met her. She becomes, like, the unattainable, like the Holy Grail…

    Here’s the twist. We find out that, that the killer really suffers from multiple personality disorder, right? See, he’s actually really the cop and the girl. All of them are him. Isn’t that fucked up?

    Sorry, adaptation was on TV last night. My God…what a movie!

    Crime and Punishment and Love and Redemption– Rod Rascol, an impoverished ex student kills an unscrupulous pawnbroker. After the crime he is plagued by guilt. He decides to kill himself, but just before his demise the pawnbrokers’ ghost appears before him. They develop a friendship that quickly leads to – a Vegas wedding!! Hilarity ensues as they try to consummate their marriage. Can Rascol find redemption? Can love conquer all – including death? Can flesh penetrate spirit? Tune in to find out.

    Salami and Avocado – A butcher and a fruit and veg shop owner meet by chance. Both are mid 30’s, and both have a secret. They’re still virgins. They’re both introverts and uncertain when it comes to the opposite sex. But their burning desire for intimacy hides underneath and reveals itself in humorous fashion… they cook each other sexually suggestive meals.

  • Another: Bob (Seth Rogen) was a security guard heading nowhere when, after seeing him taze a preteen-shoplifter, CIA agent Clarisse (Anne Hathaway) recruited him for a new post — Guantanamo Bay interrogator! But his fun new job takes a turn for the dramatic when he’s assigned to waterboard the wrongfully accused, beautiful Leila (Megan Fox), and Bob falls for her hard — but a jealous Clarisse transfers him back to the mainland. Three years later, Leila is released, but now she’s decided to become a terrorist after all! Can Bob, disguised as an al Qaeda operative, convince her to see the light?

    Find out in One Magic GuantanaMoment, coming to a theater near you!

  • Inseparable. She (Kristen Stewart) was an innocent young minister’s daughter traveling with her family in a wagon train going west. He (Robert Pattinson) was a handsome young farmboy guiding his family’s oxcart in the same wagon train.

    As they travel along, the two of them grow closer and closer but their cruel parents oppose their marriage. Then one night at Donner Pass, the two lovers come to a fatal decision…

  • JoshDM

    Every concept I have was already played out in Species II.

  • How about Camus’ The Stranger? You’d hardly have to change anything except the ending — instead of being sentenced to death, Meursault (Justin Long) would be defended by Marie (Kirsten Dunst), who – Surprise! – turns out to be a star defense attorney! After an impassioned speech from Marie melts the judge and jury’s hearts and gets him off scot-free, Meursault realizes the healing power of love and flees to the Riviera with Marie to enjoy life to its fullest!

    Also featuring Seth Rogen as Meursault’s friend Raymond – the scene of Raymond severely beating his girlfriend is sure to bring down the house!

  • nyjm

    Brian’, you will burn in a special part of French Literature hell for that – replacing Sisyphus, of course. ;-)

  • Since you all love French Lit so much:

    Get Me Outta Here. A condemned man (played by Brad Pitt) finds himself trapped with a misunderstood child-killer (played by Jennifer Aniston) and a bisexual fashion model (played by Angelina Jolie). Since none of them can get out of their prison–almost as if there were no exit!–they are forced to get along with each other while trying to deal with the unrequited passions each character has for the others. Hilary ensues when they discover where they really are.

  • david

    He is a doctor who works at an abortion clinic. She is the daughter of two pro-lifers who regularly protest at the clinic that he works at. They fall in love and decide to get married but when their families meet Hilarity ensues!

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