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Claymation, Fake Fiancés and Casual Racism: 1997 Was the Worst Year Ever for Romantic Movies

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It was almost 20 years ago that James Cameron hurled Titanic at us in an orgy of special effects, icy water and doomed, class-defying relationships. Despite the fact that heroine Rose made zero effort to save Jack, the supposed love of her life (that door was plenty big enough, Rose!), the world continues to remember the movie very fondly. So fondly, in fact, that it's forgotten that the vast majority of romantic movies made that year were almost as much of a disaster as that massive boat splitting in two.

Let's take a trip down memory lane and remember the horror show that was cinematic romance in 1997.

First up, there's Picture Perfect, a film in which Kate, a very talented, capable advertising exec, cannot get promoted at her firm because she is single. (Let's pause for a moment and think about the fact that, in 1997, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable premise for a film.) Instead of suing her employer for discrimination (that thought doesn't even wander into the picture once, funnily enough!), Kate makes up a fake fiancé, thereby instantly winning a promotion. (Seriously... were there, like, zero lawyers in 1997? How is nobody getting sued here?)

All of this fake boyfriend stuff should technically lead to hijinks and humor, but actually just drags the viewer through an interminable hour and 45 minutes of absolute dross. Not even the glossy locks and Friends-era charm of Jennifer Aniston could save this one, because it's the kind of film that has a plot device involving a man giving a woman a black eye (one-liners ensue!). It's the kind of film in which, at one point, an ad executive approaches Kate with the idea of selling mustard by using a naked model and the tag line "Spread this." It's the kind of film where the grand finale is the heroine wrecking someone else's wedding and acting like it's romantic. The most amazing thing about Picture Perfect is its own ability to be so boring and preposterous at the same time.


Remarkably, Picture Perfect was not the only movie in 1997 to have a fake fiancé (they were all the rage!). That's a tactic also employed by the protagonist of My Best Friend's Wedding -- a movie built on the obviously-awful premise that actively trying to break up somebody else's engagement is a perfectly fine and justifiable thing to do, if you look like Julia Roberts and you've changed your mind about something.

By the end, lovely Julia has successfully caused problems between a very happy couple, and destroyed the relationship with her best friend irreversibly. And while the realistically grim ending is refreshing on one level, it's all kinds of bleak for this particular genre. The only saving grace of the entire thing is the amusing size of everyone's cell phones -- Julia Roberts practically needs a briefcase for hers. In the end, My Best Friend's Wedding is neither romantic nor a comedy, which begs the question: What's the damn point?

Cameron Diaz was on quite a roll in 1997, starring as well in A Life Less Ordinary -- a movie everyone predicted would be awesome because it was Danny Boyle's follow up to Trainspotting. In reality, it was almost complete nonsense from start to finish.

Diaz plays a deeply unlikeable spoiled white lady named Celine who shoots people who want to marry her. Ewan McGregor plays Robert, a recently-dumped, recently-fired janitor who doubles as an incompetent criminal with a back-combed Oasis haircut. Celine and Robert have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Despite that, in hot pursuit of both of them are a couple of also entirely charisma-free angels (yes, angels -- stay with us, please) who need Celine and Robert to fall in love, or they'll get stuck on Earth forever, for totally arbitrary reasons that don't make any sense.

Do you hate this thing yet? Just in case you don't: there's a bunch of driving, there's a bit of dancing, there are dream sequences, gratuitous shootings, a wedding that would never, ever happen in real life, and -- this really speaks to the awfulness of A Life Less Ordinary -- the final scene of the movie is done in claymation. (CLAYMATION!) Truly, if Celine was floating on a massive door in the ocean, and Robert was hopelessly holding onto the side, the urge to break the door so neither of them could have it would be massive.

For the same reason (Friends) Jennifer Aniston was in an awful romantic comedy in 1997, so was Matthew Perry. In Fools Rush In -- a movie about hispanic people that was clearly written and produced by zero hispanic people -- Perry plays a guy who has a one-night stand in Vegas that results in a pregnancy. In a premise even more preposterous than Knocked Up, he and the baby mama (played by Salma Hayek) just immediately get married and, like, woah, culture clash.

Here's basically the entire movie, condensed down to two and a half minutes -- which, conveniently, is about as long as you'll want to watch Fools Rush In for. Enjoy!

Just when you think this particular corner of 1997 film couldn't possibly get worse, along comes Hugo Pool, a movie with an astonishingly good cast doing extraordinarily stupid things. At the time, Entertainment Weekly noted that Hugo Pool set "new standards in wacko charmlessness," while Variety noted that it was "suffering from a slender, undernourished script and set pieces not sufficiently weird or funny."

We can sum up Hugo Pool in four words: Robert Downey Jr.'s accent. Behold this mess!

Yeah. So that happened...


It's impossible to know what went wrong with romance in the movies in 1997 -- perhaps the proximity to the end of the century (and that dreaded Y2K) meant films were trying too hard to be different. Perhaps in the brand new age of the internet, a good old-fashioned traditional love story felt passé. One thing that is clear is that, after suffering through 11 months of this nonsense before the December release of Titanic, it's no wonder audiences forgave Rose for the door incident.

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