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The Katherine Heigl Effect

“]Cover of "The Ugly Truth [Blu-ray]"
The Ugly Truth is Romantic Comedies Have Lost a Step or Two.

I love romantic comedies. I’ve loved them as long as I could remember. I love how they had these free spirited, intelligent women and suave, debonair men who had philosophical debates and were polar opposites, but who somehow fell in love with each other. I loved the high caliber of actors and actresses that were used to create this effect, from Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock, to Tom Hanks, Gerard Depardieu, and Billy Crystal. I loved the reaffirmation of all things romantic (even though I knew it wasn’t true; that’s not how things really happen). I was impressed by how serious you could take these love stories, how complicated they were, yet funny and entertaining. Then a curious thing happened, a thing I like to call the Katherine Heigl Effect.

The Katherine Heigl Effect didn’t begin with Katherine Heigl; rather, it was perfected with her. The smart, yet funny and endearing heroine of the romantic comedy, the lovable klutz or the heartsick romantic, began to morph into the over-educated shrew that needed to be tamed. Now she’s a career woman who has to be taught to love (The Proposal, The Ugly Truth). She’s gone from goofy, lovable eccentric to a bit of a nutcase (All About Steve, The Killers). And she screams and shrieks–a LOT (The Killers, Knight & Day).

The women aren’t the only ones effected. The men went from slightly uncouth and a little rogue-ish to crass and immature (Knocked Up, The Ugly Truth). When they are heroes, they are caricatures of heroes (Knight & Day). Many are wooden or lack intelligence. The jokes are juvenile and dirty, the possibility of two such people getting together ridiculous, even in a romantic comedy, a genre in which anything is possible.

I miss the heartfelt discussions of love in movies like When Harry Met Sally. I miss movies where love conquered time (Kate & Leopold, The Lake House), social standing (Pretty Woman)–even adultery (Something to Talk About). I miss movies where the unlikeliest of couples got together (Green Card, Forget Paris, You’ve Got Mail). I miss movies in which she got the guy she needed and not the guy she initially wanted (While You Were Sleeping, Only You). I miss pretend relationships that turned real. I miss falling in love over the phone (or email).

This movie season was especially weak in all genres to me. How do we begin to demand quality movies and actually get them, without the gimmicks and bells and whistles to try and distract us from the mediocrity? What are you missing? How has Hollywood ruined your favorite genre? 

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