Carly: When I recall the milestones of my childhood, I think of “Runaway Bride.” I first saw this movie in fifth grade while on an airplane to Costa Rica, and even among the crying babies and turbulence, I fell in love. T’was the beginning of a lifelong affection for Garry Marshall feel-good films and Richard Gere (and apparently my “thing” for much older men … ). Despite the minuscule screen and six rows of passengers between us, it were as if Richard and I were alone on that flight. Between Marshall’s charm and Gere’s … everything … how can a woman not fall for this flick?
Natalie: I fully understand having an emotional connection to a movie and a dreamy movie character — believe me, my disdain for this movie is not a tirade against the rom-com genre, and certainly not against that sexy silver fox, Richard Gere. And as a clumsy child (and adult), I’ve always taken comfort in Julia Roberts’s wide smile and goofy persona. But this movie is inane. It has none of the charm of “Pretty Woman,” the bite of “Erin Brockovitch,” the daft joy that is “Notting Hill.” It’s a sappy, shallow picture of life in an unrealistically quaint town and of a “love” between two selfish fools.
Carly: OK, so it’s not exactly Oscar-worthy material, but do people go to Taco Bell expecting a gourmet meal? No — they go because they know exactly what they’re getting, and it’s comforting. I can’t believe I just compared my favorite movie of all-time to a fast-food restaurant I despise, but let’s be honest: Most rom-coms are as predictable as the cheese on your Gordita. And though, I agree, there are better items on the menu, I love this movie because it’s unrealistic. It’s an escape into a safe, idealized world with the right combination of quirk and saccharine — complete with a killer soundtrack. Is it a critically acclaimed film? No. But does it make me feel good? Yes. To the average movie-viewer, which matters more?
Natalie: Predictability is comforting, but I prefer my comfort with a little bit of substance, like drinking a hot chocolate in front of a cozy fire — I don’t want a movie leaving me queasy the entire next day. Even the surprises in “Runaway Bride” are overdone, and Maggie and Ike’s whirlwind romance never shows that their love is sustaining. Give me a silly romance, give me happy, simple characters, give me a wedding at the end. I’ll take anything but a movie about whiny people who don’t know who they are and won’t make their own decisions. Realism doesn’t matter, but caring about what happens to the characters does. This movie just doesn’t have that, though I will admit wedding dress-clad Julia Roberts riding away on a horse as U2 echoes behind her might be the greatest movie opening of all time.
Carly: Good rom-coms feature predictable scenarios and major stars who end up together; they please the crowd. I’ll accept flat characters like a self-absorbed, big-city reporter and a flighty small-town girl, who “finds herself” by figuring out her favorite kind of eggs, if they’re Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The who matters, and they wouldn’t pay certain actors $20 million a picture if it didn’t. With its inevitable happy ending and on-screen dream team — “Runaway Bride” succeeds.
Natalie: To utilize your Taco Bell analogy once again, why would I go to Taco Bell when Chipotle has the same food but better quality? “Runaway Bride” was made because the Gere/Roberts pairing was so lucrative in the delightful “Pretty Woman,” but it’s evident that no real passion or artistry went into the making of this studio-fueled film. I wanted to love it, I tried to look beyond its faults, but all I found was a flimsy taco shell filled with imitation beef.