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i came to an epiphany while watching the bachelor , an innocuous-enough-on-the-surface romantic comedy .
it's not the sort of film in which one would expect to achieve any moment of clarity , but there it was nonetheless .
i sat there watching this marshmallow of a movie unfold when suddenly i realized what is so ridiculously wrong with the entire romantic comedy genre circa 1999 .
in a word , it's the same thing that's wrong with so many movies circa 1999 : writing .
more to the point , it's the refusal to acknowledge that characterizations matter when you're telling a story about a relationship .
the bachelor is merely the latest in a long line of films where we're expected to get dewy-eyed over any pairing of attractive , pleasant people just because they're attractive and pleasant .
in this particular case , attractive and pleasant exhibit a is jimmy shannon ( chris o'donnell ) , a single guy who has been watching his friends slowly but surely sucked into marriage .
it's a scary notion for jimmy , even though he dearly loves attractive and pleasant exhibit b anne ( renee zellweger ) , his girlfriend of three years .
convinced despite his reservations that it's time to " sh * t or get off the pot , " jimmy proposes to anne -- very badly .
anne refuses , which leaves jimmy in a very odd position when his eccentric grandfather ( peter ustinov ) dies and leaves a very specific video will .
jimmy stands to inhereit $100 million if he is married by 6 : 05 p . m . on his 30th birthday , stays married for 10 years and produces a child .
there are only a couple of minor problems : 1 ) jimmy's 30th birthday is the next day ; 2 ) anne is nowhere to be found , meaning jimmy has to find another willing bride from among his many ex-girlfriends .
it's a wacky , brewster's millions-esque premise ( acknowledged as such in one of the film's better , more self-aware lines of dialogue ) , the kind where a shallow and materialistic guy learns what really matters .
at least that would be the case if jimmy weren't already a world-class altruist .
screenwriter steve cohen slides into the story an even more draconian condition in the will : if jimmy doesn't get married , not only will he lose all the money , but the family billiard table buisness will be sold out from under him , costing hudreds of jobs .
from the outset , jimmy's motivation isn't cash ; it's the livelihoods of his devoted employees .
it's almost embarrassing for his marital misgivings to play a role in the bachelor's plot development .
by any human standard , the guy is impossibly selfless .
and that's the essence of the gutlessness endemic to films like the bachelor -- the fear of giving the characters flaws to overcome on their way to happiness .
there's never any tension between the two star-crossed lovers , because there's no sense that anything remotely significant is at stake .
the blandly nice o'donnell couldn't pull off a randy cad if he tried , so the filmmakers don't even let him ; zellweger's anne may have issues with her sickeningly affectionate parents as an impossible standard to live up to , but no one dares make her anything but the woman ( lightly ) wronged .
and forget about seeing enough of jimmy and anne together to feel invested in their potential reconciliation .
the parade of sit-com set pieces had better be damned funny , since they're all that stands between us and a blissfully sweet foregone conclusion .
i'll admit a couple of those set pieces are amusing , including ustinov's rantings about procreation and a restaurant full-to-bursting with men popping questions and champagne corks .
far more of them are either tedious or downright ghastly , like the shudder-inducing sight of brooke shields as an icy fortune-hunter or the hideous collection of stereotypes when hundreds of potential brides gather in a church .
you're never going to get too many raucous belly laughs from a film like the bachelor , but that's not the real problem .
nor is it the real problem that you know exactly the kind of warm-n-fuzzy conclusion it's leading up to .
the problem are a beginning and middle that are equally warm-n-fuzzy -- there's no spark , no energy , no humanity .
it's an emotional pudding guaranteed not to offend any consumer's digestions .
we've reached a point where our proxies for cinematic romantic wish fulfillment don't even have a pulse .
the bachelor is love among the mannequins .
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