After last week’s orphan opus, TBP thought we all might appreciate something a little lighter. What better than five mostly chaste, totally sweet, pretty relatable love stories. Grab the remote and join the tween chorus: Let’s goooooooooooo rom-coms!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002; HBO Max)
Think back to the media frenzy around writer/star Nia Vardalos upon the unforeseen success of MBFGW: She did not look like Cameron Diaz: Revolutionary! She was 40 when the film premiered: Unusual! Her little movie was the highest-grossing romantic-comedy of all time: How soon can we churn out the sequel and the TV show?! Nearly 20 years later, this movie is just as charming as the day it hit theaters. The script is fizzy (it nabbed an Oscar nomination for original screenplay) and the performances excellent: I laugh out loud every time Andrea Martin as Aunt Voula announces her solution to John Corbett’s vegetarianism: “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? ...That’s OK! I make some lamb!”
While You Were Sleeping (1995; Disney+)
Regular TBP readers may remember that Speed (1994) was a little too explosive for the Baker-Burnett bunch. But Sandy Bullock’s next big film—in which she plays a token taker who crushes on regular train rider Peter Gallagher and, once he winds up in a coma, pretends to be his fiancée—delivered. Bullock dazzles as lovesick, madcap Lucy, Gallagher and his famous caterpillars succeed in playing their role for laughs, and Bill Pullman (or is it Paxton?) seems perfectly nice as Peter’s down-to-earth brother. For 11-year-old L.B. and me, though, the movie’s highlight is the rest of the family—loud, loving, Irish—which consists of supporting gems like Glynis Johns, Peter Boyle, and Micole Mercurio.
Just Wright (2010; rent it for $3.99 at Amazon Prime et al.)
The ultra-shiny cast led by Queen Latifah and Common elevate what would have been a just-passable NBA romance into a fun, sweet movie. To be honest, I would be happy to spend time with Queen as she does just about anything, so observing her as she laughs, cries, practices physical therapy, and literally watches paint dry got it done for me. Speaking of baller movies, we recently pumped up our two older kids—plus a wiseacre friend of 15-year-old H.B.—to screen what I remembered as the ultimate hoops romance, Love & Basketball. Turns out, though iconic, it is not a good choice for family movie night, a realization underscored when H.B.’s friend announced, “They’re moaning!!”
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton (2004, Cinemax)
For as long as I can remember, our family has been obsessed with the 1963 musical satire Bye Bye Birdie, which beats even Pitch Perfect and Annie for the title of most-watched movie at our house. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton puts a modern, non-musical spin on the same concept—a regular girl who happens to have movie star looks is miraculously chosen at random to meet her famous dream hunk. The then-young cast is adorable: Kate Bosworth is “ordinary” Rosalee Futch; Gennifer Goodwin and Topher Grace are her pals Cathy and Pete; and a hilarious Josh Duhamel is Tad Hamilton himself. The movie’s a very fun hour and a half, though it earns its PG-13 rating—this probably isn’t a win for kids younger than 5th grade. Sixth-grade L.B., however, has been known to quote this movie, and for her and 10th-grade H.B., it was right in their sugary-sweet spot.
Hitch (2005, HBO Max)
Between you and me, I cannot watch a Kevin James vehicle, even if Will Smith and Eva Mendez are there to create a diversion. And reader, I have tried! My cell phone just somehow jumps into my palm and suddenly I’ve lost the plot. (And no, I’m not lookist—his sensibility and mine just do not mesh.) Our kids, on the other hand, think ole Kev “seems nice.” They’re also forever fans of the Fresh Prince and can’t resist a meme-able dance scene, of which this movie has a few. For their money—ha—Hitch gets the job done. While I’ve not watched the movie closely, I have sat in the room with L.B. while she was glued to it and no red flags leapt off the screen. Waive it through.