FARGO — According to a recent report, more than half of all American couples plan to stay home this Valentine's Day.
Many of them will choose to hunker down with their sweetie and watch a movie. But we all know trying to decide which movie to choose can lead to marital (or dating) discord. One partner wants an action thriller, the other wants a period romance.
With the help of my co-worker, John Lamb, The Forum's arts and entertainment guru, we came up with some suggestions for choosing a movie that will add the love to your Valentine's Day.
After digging through our DVD collections, we came up with five tips for picking a movie you both might enjoy (or at least not hate).
The big 4
How do you even begin to select a romantic movie for Valentine's Day? After all, The Script Lab website says "love conquers all" is second only to "good versus evil" as the most common theme of Hollywood movies. Moviegoers, it appears, love love even more than car chases and Tyler Perry dressing up like Madea.
When you can't decide which romantic movie to watch, I'd recommend going for star power and picking a romantic comedy featuring one of what I'll call "The Big 4": Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. Surely, these stars have had their share of stinkers ("Joe Versus The Volcano," anyone?). But much of the time, their movies, if not always Oscar-winners, just make you feel good.
Hanks, described by many as today's Jimmy Stewart for his everyman appeal and Ryan, in all her quirky adorableness, are great together in both "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail." Ryan is also funny and relatable alongside Hugh Jackman in the 2001 time-travel romantic fantasy, "Kate and Leopold." But Ryan might be best-known in romantic comedy circles for her role as Sally in "When Harry Met Sally" with Billy Crystal. The 1989 film is often listed among the top comedies of all time.
John says he's quick to pick up movies starring Crystal. "He's one of the go-to guys of the '80s and '90s," John says. "He comes across as likable, like Tom Hanks. And just really funny."
I'm also a big fan of Sandra Bullock in rom-coms like "Hope Floats" with Harry Connick Jr. and "While You Were Sleeping" with Bill Pullman. "The Lake House," with Bullock and Keanu Reeves, is also very good while a little sappy. Hugh Grant is so romantically awkward in "Notting Hill" with Julia Roberts and "Music and Lyrics" with Drew Barrymore — he'll make even the dorkiest person feel like Rico Suave. Perfect to inspire a romantic evening.
Pick Ryan, Ryan or Reese
While not quite at the level of "The Big 4," I think it's hard to go wrong with most romantic comedies starring Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling or Reese Witherspoon. Reynolds and Bullock are sweet and funny together in "The Proposal," while Gosling made audiences swoon in the sappy, sweet tearjerker "The Notebook" and laugh in "Crazy, Stupid Love," which co-starred Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone.
"I think the two Ryans have picked up the torch from guys like Tom Hanks. They're the kind of actors that can carry a romantic comedy these days," John says.
Meantime, Academy Award-winner Witherspoon is a lot of fun in both "Legally Blonde" and "Sweet Home Alabama."
Sometimes it's nice to cuddle up with your sweetheart and feel at home watching a movie with local connections. Certainly, "Fargo" doesn't quite fit the bill, unless you're into woodchippers and bomber hats.
However, "New in Town," starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., is kind of like "Fargo" without the blood, gore and dead bodies. It's the story of a high-powered Miami executive (Zellweger) who moves to New Ulm, Minn., to oversee operations at a manufacturing plant. The "dontcha' know" and "oh yah" accents are a little overdone, but it's still a lot of fun, if only to watch the scene where Zellweger's character walks out the doors of the Minneapolis airport to the harsh reality of Minnesota winds.
While "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" doesn't take place in our region, it does star one of our favorite hometown sons. Josh Duhamel plays movie star Tad Hamilton, who falls in love with the small-town grocery story clerk who won a date with him in a contest. I think I'd be a Duhamel fan even if he weren't from here. (Spoiler alert: I stop the movie about 10 minutes before it ends because I don't like the guy she chooses at the end.)
Guys like Cusack
Is is just me or does every guy love Monty Python and The Three Stooges? The same could be said of John Cusack. Men, at least the ones I know, seem to gravitate to him, even for Valentine's picks.
"I'd say when in doubt, pick a John Cusack movie," John Lamb says.
Cusack first appeared in '80s teen flicks like "Sixteen Candles" and "The Sure Thing." But Cusack really made a name for himself in the 1989 romantic comedy-drama "Say Anything," where he played sometimes awkward everyman Lloyd Dobbler.
As IMDB points out, Cusack has made a living playing "underdogs" and "odd-men out."
"I think he's kind of the geek's hero, just a likable guy," John says.
John says Cusack is also great in the 2000 film "High Fidelity," where he plays the owner of a failing record store who hilariously reflects on his romantic past.
"I liked his enthusiasm, his positivity and sense of music," John says. "He's sometimes likable, other times unlikable and sometimes a downright jerk, but maybe that's why this movie is fun to watch."
If you're still struggling to pick a movie, try a sappy standard — films that have stood the test of time.
"It Happened One Night" (1934), "Gone with the Wind" (1939) or "Casablanca" (1942) are classics and set the standard for later Hollywood romances. More recent choices include films based upon Jane Austen novels including "Sense and Sensibility (1995)" starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant or "Pride and Prejudice" (2005) starring Kiera Knightly. Another popular romantic favorite is 1997's "Titantic," which neither John nor I love — but if you're in the mood for a poor-boy-woos-rich-girl-boat-sinks-tearjerker, this might be it. Oops, did I just ruin the ending for you?
"The Holiday," starring Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet and Jack Black, might not be the best choice for Valentine's Day, but put in on your calendar for Christmas romances right alongside "White Christmas."
Hmmm, I think I see another story coming. Check back in December.