Guy Thing
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A Guy Thing

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The Romantic Comedy is an odd type of movie. It has to come across as fresh and spontaneous yet it is one of the most strictly formalized genres to be found in the industry. It has to balance humor with melodramatic romantic themes while adhering to a written in stone three act format. In the first act the couple meets typically not liking each other although this requires them to ignore the underlying, undeniable chemistry that appears to be present. Just as they give in and form a relationship some external factor pulls them apart signaling the pivotal second act. These obstacles have to seem serious enough to present the real possibility that the romance is doomed only to be readily resolved in the final moments of act three where the clueless guy comes to the brilliant albeit tardy realization he loves the girl. Perhaps in this case the predictability offers a certain comfortable feeling of familiarity that is reassuring especially in turbulent socio-economic times such as we are currently experiencing. In the flick; ‘a Guy Thing’ we begin at what would normally be the conclusion, his impending nuptials to the young woman he loves. Then the story attempts to take a twist; the perspective groom falls for the young woman providing the PG-13 rated bachelor party entertainment. Several other fairly predictable turns are attempted before the predetermined and foregone conclusion that prompts the appearance of the end credit roll. This film is certainly not a top shelf example of the rom-com but much like bacon; even if it’s not perfectly prepared its still bacon. This flick sports a very attractive young cast appealing to both genders. This makes it a reasonable date night movie or at least a passable popcorn movie for when you are entertaining some friends. All three actors comprising the principle cast have action film credentials making it more palatable to the guys. There is a down side to the conformity that is prevalent in this sort of movie; the level of humor present is no longer intended to illicit roars of laughter. The most a diehard fan of the rom-com can hope for is some sporadic giggles and a few evenly placed smiles throughout the running time of the movie. This is regrettable but a fact of where this genre exists in the cinema.

Paul Coleman (Jason Lee) is certain he has found the woman of his dreams in Karen Cooper (Selma Blair). Their relationship has blossomed and in a very brief time they are about to take that fateful trip down the aisle to wedded bliss. Following tradition Paul subjects himself to the time honored romantic comedy tradition of the bachelor party and much to his consternation the next morning next two a dancer who performed during the prior evening’s festivities; Becky Jackson (Julia Stiles). Under the mistaken impression that they had sex he hurries her out of his apartment hoping to never see her again relegating the incident to something that came be completely ignored and ultimately forgotten. As things tend to proceed in films like this Becky just happens to be Karen’s cousin. A rom-com is nothing is not convoluted so it should not be surprising when the situation is further complicated by Becky’s cop ex-boyfriend , Ray (Lochlyn Munro) is stalking her and has taken some incriminating photographs of her with Paul. In a necessary set up for a balanced happy ending Paul’s brother and best Man has a secret crush on the bride. There are also mandatory sub plots involving the overprotective father of the bride (James Brolin). A completely extraneous plot device Paul winds up with a case of the crabs. There is nothing like pre-marital sexually transmitted disease to set the stage for laughs. This leaves Paul to muse over the source of the infection, the blushing bride or her coconut clad dancing cousin. In some key respects it might be better to approach this film as if it was a classic sixties sexuality oriented farce. It does manifest the requisite elements from the foundation based on highly improbable coincidences to further the story through a series of outlandishly contrived situations. One reason this film works better in such a light rather than the more obvious categorization of romantic comedy is rom-coms use the characters to drive the action bouncing the pin ball style from one situation to the next. Here, characterization is secondary to the nonsensical set of circumstances that sweeps the characters along. Admittedly it is a rather fine line that differentiates the two cinematic methodologies but in the final analysis the difference in audience perception greatly affects what you will expect and therefore be able to take away from this flick. My first viewing was as a romantic comedy but once I decided it was an old school farce and was able to abandon the expectation of a coherent script I could sit back and derive more in the way of fun during my second viewing.

The screenwriter, Greg Glienna, is best known for writing the popular comic franchise of the Focker family. Those scripts, at least the first couple, demonstrated a tighter construction in the way the story is allowed to unfold. In this case you are pretty much dumped into the primary situation without the benefit of permitting the audience to get to know the characters. For this kind of story it is critical to build that rapport between the audience and the characters in order to foster an emotional commitment letting the audience care about the plight unfolding before them. This same looseness in production is evident in the directorial style offered by Chris Koch. He previous movie credit was ‘Snow Day’ nut the real indication of his inherent talent was evident in the sit-coms he helmed on television. They did represent some of the more imaginative representations of the genre; ‘My Name is Earl’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Scrubs’. Although each of these is a situational comedy they distinguished themselves through their consistent excellence in character development. Unfortunately, Glienna and Koch were not afforded a suitable opportunity to demonstrate this facet of their talents.

Posted 07/25/11

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