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While the rest of the film industry gears up for a year of 3D graphics and animation, romantic comedies haven't budged since the '60s. The slate to be released in 2011 is more of the same. But that's why we love the genre. Rom-Coms are a lot like dating: they feel repetitive but there's a comfort in monotony. Sometimes you watch a rom-com because it's there, not because you really like it. Sometimes, it's just better then not watching one at all. And just when you've lowered your standards too far, a surprisingly good one sneaks up on you and you remember it pays to keep watching. (Last year, my welcome surprise was "Going the Distance.") Looking down the barrel of another year of pratfalls, overreactions and relationships built on exasperation, it's hard to know which one, if any, will be "the one" and which one will just take our money and let us ogle at it for a coupe of hours. Oh wait, all of them will. Hooray!
No Strings Attached
Starring: Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher
Release date: 1/21
Synopsis: Two people really like each other as friends, but wait, they're also attracted to each other. Naturally, they must avoid being in a relationship at all costs
Pro: Directed by '80s comedy guru Ivan Reitman. "Ghostbusters", anyone? Rom-Com genius.
Con: "Ghostbusters" was almost 30 years ago. More recently, Reitman directed "My Super-Ex Girlfriend."
Exact same movie: "Friends with Benefits" - a movie also slated for 2011 starring Justin Timberlake. In fact "No Strings" was originally called "Friends with Benefits" before the producers were forced to employ the other reference for friend sex.
---What's Your Number?
Starring: Anna Faris and Ryan Phillippe
Release Date: 4/29 Synopsis: A woman who's sick of looking for new love revisits her old boyfriends in search of "the one."
Pro: It sounds a lot like "Broken Flowers."
Con: It sounds a lot like "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past."
Exact same movie: "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," "Broken Flowers"
Likelihood of title change: 80%. Suggestion: "The Boyfriend Archive"
2 Days in New York Starring: Chris Rock, Julie Delpy
Release date: Sometime in 2011
Synopsis: A follow-up to the indie rom-com "2 Days in Paris," this one takes place in New York and involves clever, navel-gazing relationship conversations like those in part one.
Pro: Lots. The first one received some solid reviews and comparisons to Woody Allen's better fare. Then there's Chris Rock who's always worth a watch, even in "Grown Ups." Plus, it's written and directed by Delpy, part of Hollywood's talented group of female auteurs on the rise.
Con: Is there nowhere else to set a romantic comedy besides New York? Right, Paris.
Elevator pitch: It's "Annie Hall" meets "Before Sunset" and hopefully not very "Sidewalks of New York."
From Prada to Nada
Starring: Camilla Belle
Release date: 1/28
Synopsis: Two rich spoiled siblings are left penniless when their dad dies and are forced to live with their poor aunt. Something tells me they'll have a hard time at first, and then a really easy, fun, sexy, happy, winning contest and money for everyone time in the end.
Pro: The title rhymes.
Con: You have to pay to see this movie.
Exact same movie: ABC Family's slate of original movies available for free On Demand with the same level of Disney star power and poetic naming (See "Beauty and The Briefcase")
Likelihood of Title Change: 0%. Come on, it's gold.
New Year's Eve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, the girl that's about to be really big, that guy from that thing and the five people you meet in heaven.
Release Date: 12/9
Synopsis: New Year's, Champagne glass, humans, pretty, kiss.
Pro: These ensemble movies with lots of famous people briefly interacting in a romantic way aren't technically good movies, but they do really well at the box office. They're like watching an issue "Us Weekly," if you scrambled the relationships up. We will pay for a pleasant place to rest our eyes while our brain sleeps. Glossy paper with pictures is easy, but moving images with sounds is easier.
Con: You can't watch it while sitting on the can...yet.
Exact Same Movie: "Valentine's Day"
Likelihood of Title Change: 50% depending on finalized release date. (There's always Labor Day)
Just Go With it
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and a blond girl Adam Sandler thinks is hot
Release Date: 2/11
Synopsis: A guy recruits a woman to pretend to be his lady so he'll win the heart of someone else.
Pro: At least there's a real female character who will likely have more lines than Sandler's usual trophy girl types with nothing but non-sequitors like "Great Shot! Want to take a dip in the hot tub?" [Drops towel to reveal nude body]
Con: First, there's the tag line: "Sometimes you need a girl to get the girl." Girl? Has anyone informed Sandler he's pushing 50? Then there's the inevitability his character will fall for Aniston's and she will, in turn, overlook the fact that he has the mating sensibilities of an ape.
Elevator Pitch: It's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" meets "My Father the Hero" minus the weird incest stuff that made people uncomfortable.
Friends with Benefits
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Emma Stone, Mila Kunis
Release date: 7/22
Synopsis: See "No Strings Attached"
Pro: Timberlake and Kunis, together? I'll bite. Plus there will likely be an onslaught of rumors about their real life flirtation since she's recently single. A rom-com that moves into reality is always a crowd-pleaser.
Con: This movie came out in January (again, see "No Strings Attached").
Likelihood of title change: 0%. "No Strings" is taken, leaving only "F-Buddy" which won't pass the censors.
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Demi Moore, Ashley Greene
Release date: Sometime in 2011
Synopsis: This teen tale about contemporary things like computers and e-mail is new and relevant. Hijinks ensue.
Pro: Hilarious references to things that will sound dated by the time the film gets released. As you read this, some poor person is probably editing out every reference to MySpace and dubbing in the word "Facebook."
Con: The title, for starters.
Elevator Pitch: "You've got Mail" meets "Easy A"
Likelihood of title change: 100% It's probably been renamed twice already.