(c) Working Title Films / StudioCanal / Little Bird / Universal
Terrible news, folks. According to a recent report in The Guardian, both British and global cinema-goers are falling out of love with the movie sub-genre that, for the past two decades, has been a profitable and prestigious staple of the British film industry (well, what’s left of it): the romantic comedy, aka the rom-com.
Sad though it is to report, the sub-genre, whose most celebrated British examples – 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1999’s Notting Hill, 2001’s Bridget Jones’ Diary and 2003’s Love, Actually, all from the stable of Working Title Films and all with writer / director Richard Curtis at their helm – earned more than a billion dollars worldwide between them, is now out of favour with cinema audiences. Recent British efforts like 2013’s I Give it a Year and Not Another Happy Ending, 2014’s Love, Rosie and 2015’s Man Up have barely earned a penny at the box office. Indeed, I don’t think I’d even heard of those four films before I started researching this blog-entry.
Now regular readers of Blood and Porridge will know what an absolute, devoted fan I am of the Great British rom-com. I worship at the Temple of Richard Curtis. (I’ve built one in my back garden.) And I sincerely believe that Hugh Grant is the greatest actor in world history. Yes, other actors, like Marlon Brando and Sir Laurence Olivier, won more critical acclaim in their time; but when it comes to playing a posh and floppy-haired, but bumbling, self-deprecating and lovable Englishman, the likes of Brando and Olivier wouldn’t have been fit to kiss Hugh’s Paolo Vandini retro-Mod brogues.
And when I venture into a cinema, there is nothing guaranteed to fill me with more delight than a film about a posh, floppy-haired, self-deprecating, etc. Englishman who falls in love with and, in his bumbling way, tries to woo some unobtainable beauty, who’s usually American. A film that has as its climax a desperate, but hilarious, race across London while the posh Englishman and his posh friends attempt to get to and disrupt a wedding ceremony in the nick of time. A film that has a hilarious cameo appearance by Rowan Atkinson, who of course is famous around the world for playing that very funny man, Mr Bean. A film that comes with a musical soundtrack consisting of such thrilling and cutting-edge artists as Geri Halliwell, Robbie Williams and Wet Wet Wet.
Therefore, to do my bit to save the Great British rom-com from artistic and financial oblivion, I will offer suggestions for some new British rom-coms – possible new movies that, while sticking to the familiar British rom-com formula that we all know and love, also introduce some fresh elements that might attract new cinema audiences. I just hope Richard Curtis is reading this. And making notes.
One. Four Waterboardings and a Funeral
Hugh Grant plays Jack Bauer, a posh and floppy haired, but self-deprecating, bumbling and loveable agent of the Counter Terrorist Unit. Whilst engaged in a desperate, but hilarious, 24-hour race against time to prevent Islamic terrorists from detonating a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles, he falls in love with and attempts to woo, in his bumbling way, an unobtainable beauty working for the CIA (Andie MacDowell), whom he encounters during four waterboarding-sessions with suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Guantanamo Bay. It climaxes with a desperate, but hilarious, race across Los Angeles while Hugh and his posh friends in the Counter Terrorist Unit attempt to disarm the nuclear bomb and, more importantly, get to and disrupt Andie’s wedding ceremony in the nick of time. Watch out for a hilarious cameo appearance by Rowan Atkinson playing that very funny terrorist, Osama Bean Laden. (Mr Bean Laden’s impromptu burial-at-sea is the ‘funeral’ of the title.)
Two. Rotting Hill
Hugh Grant plays a posh, floppy-haired, self-deprecating, etc. Englishman who falls in love with and, in his bumbling way, tries to woo the corpse of a dead American actress (Julia Roberts) in an upmarket neighbourhood of London. It climaxes with a desperate, but hilarious, race across London while Hugh and his posh friends attempt to get to the crematorium and disrupt the dead actress’s funeral ceremony in the nick of time. Watch out for a romantic sequence between Hugh and Julia while Wet Wet Wet sing a cover version of Alice Cooper’s I Love the Dead.
Three. Love, Expendably
Just in time for Christmas! A heart-warming smorgasbord of separate love stories set during the festive season, involving a variety of elderly 1980s action-movie heroes whose fates prove to be interlinked as the film progresses. Terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) is cheating on his partner (Bruce Willis) by having an affair with his secretary (Chuck Norris) at the office of his terrorist organisation – will Willis catch him out while he tries to buy from some Chechen arms dealers a jewel-encrusted AK-47 as a Christmas present for his new lover? A kick-boxing mercenary (Jean Claude Van Damme) retires to a Belgian cottage for some Zen-type meditation where, gradually, he falls in love with his Italian housekeeper (Sylvester Stallone) despite the fact that Stallone can’t speak any English – can’t speak any sort of language, in fact. And the SAS-trained Prime Minister of Great Britain (Jason Statham) has to stand up to the body-building US President (Arnold Schwarzenegger) after Schwarzenegger, during an official visit, makes some ungentlemanly comments about the flabby body of his aikido-practising tea-lady (Steven Seagal). Watch out for a hilarious cameo appearance by Dolph Lundgren playing Mr Bean.
Four. The Hu-Grant Centipede
A middle-aged English actor (Hugh Grant), driven insane by being typecast in lame British romantic comedies, hires a disreputable surgeon (Bill Nighy) to carry out an operation that will give vent to all his bitterness against the many British actors who have never suffered the indignity of appearing in such movies. The surgeon stitches together Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, James McAvoy, Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, etc., in a human centipede, attached mouth-to-anus so that they have one super-long digestive tract. Sewn on at the front of the centipede, meanwhile, is Richard Curtis. This means that Grant’s rivals will have to swallow from Curtis all the crap that he’s had to swallow from Curtis over the years: posh and floppy-haired, but self-deprecating, bumbling and lovable Englishmen; unobtainable American beauties; desperate but hilarious races across London; cameo appearances by Mr Bean; and music by Geri Halliwell, Robbie Williams and Wet Wet Wet.