By Becky Davis
Special to MSN Movies
The hour of the teenage girl has arrived.
There are approximately 33 million teens on the globe, collectively spending some $115 billion a year. We're a huge, demanding market that knows exactly what it wants and is therefore relatively easy to please. We want to buy smoothies at Jamba Juice, wear trendy $100 jeans and have unlimited text messaging on our cell phones. We want to listen to our lime-green MP3 players until our eardrums burst.
And when it comes to movies, we want chick flicks: sappy, unoriginal plots that prominently feature Hugh Grant or his army of awkward British clones. Hollywood has been happy to comply, turning out hundreds of romantic comedies ranging from mawkishly mundane to classic.
A chick flick knows it's not timeless -- or a work of art. It doesn't win awards. It doesn't require talented actors, an interesting soundtrack or even a plot. And yet all the same, there's something admirable in the courage it takes to release a movie of such low caliber.
As a 16-year-old, I can't get enough of them. No matter how cheesy the dialogue or how absurd the premise, the chick flick makes me feel more at peace with the world. I can laugh, I can cry, I can snort excessively at the gorgeous movie stars' ridiculous problems.
I can go through the full range of emotions and human experience in the space of an hour and a half. It's like puberty again, but without the unsightly hair.
And better yet, no matter what the film's about, in any good chick flick, the girls like us always end up finding true love. These movies may not be deep, but they're good for the soul.
Without further ado, here's a list of chick flicks that have made me laugh, sigh, cry or cringe repeatedly.
"Love Actually" (2003)
Although it's kind of a Christmas movie, to make a list of chick flicks without including "Love Actually" would be a crime, even out of season. The movie follows the story of eight different couples as they fall in love, break up, have affairs, become British prime minister and generally just deal with their lives.
Chick-Flick Elements: The amazingly cute story lines and the appearance of basically all the British actors we know and love make this movie a defining film of the chick-flick genre. Added visual perks include Colin Firth jumping into a lake and Rodrigo Santoro (aka Karl, Laura Linney's office hunk) taking off his clothing.
Lake-Jumping Trivia: Colin Firth's lake was actually only 18 inches deep, so he had to kneel while filming that scene. He was also bitten by mosquitoes infesting the water and ended up with a swollen elbow the size of an avocado that needed medical attention. But we all know it was worth it.
"Say Anything..." (1989)
John Cusack plays kickboxer Lloyd Dobler, who wants to get with the genius class valedictorian, Diane Court, immediately following their high school graduation. Various obstacles impede their relationship, including social pressures, Diane's upcoming move to England, her overprotective father and Lloyd's own awkwardness.
Chick-Flick Elements: This movie contains some of the cutest moments of all romantic comedies, foremost among them the iconic scene with Cusack standing outside Diane's bedroom window holding a radio over his head playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" while she tries to sleep. Stalking has never been so appealing.
(After having sex for the first time)
Diane: Are you shaking?
Diane: You're cold.
Lloyd: I don't think I am.
Diane: Then why are you shaking?
Lloyd: I don't know. I think I'm just happy.
"Dirty Dancing" (1987)
Jennifer Grey plays Baby, a sheltered teenager bored with her family's summer vacation in the Catskills. She falls in love with Johnny, the resort's dance instructor played by Patrick Swayze. When Johnny's dance partner turns out to be pregnant, Baby steps up to the plate volunteering to take her place.
Chick-Flick Elements: What girl doesn't love a story where the uncoordinated girl with the big nose gets the hot guy in tight pants?
Why You Should Flaunt Your Original Nose with Pride: Grey had two nose jobs done after making this movie and afterward looked so changed that she was unrecognizable to her friends and fans. In a turn of fate truly inspiring to big-schnozzed girls everywhere, her rhinoplasty surgeries actually made her lose work, and she was relegated to acting in made-for-TV movies.
"Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001)
In this movie adapted from Helen Fielding's book of the same name, Renée Zellweger gained 25 pounds to play Bridget, a "30-something singleton" who struggles with her weight, her alcohol and nicotine consumption and her love life.
Chick-Flick Elements: Perhaps I'm a bit cynical, but only in a chick flick would the slightly overweight girl with ridiculous parents, "verbal diarrhea" and absolutely no knowledge of current events or social manners have to make the onerous choice between spending her life with Hugh Grant or Colin Firth. Even so, Bridget Jones gives generations of slightly drippy girls hope for their future.
Colin Firth's Best Line Ever:
Bridget: Wait a minute ... nice boys don't kiss like that.
Mark Darcy: Oh yes, they f***ing do.
"William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" (1996)
As a Shakespeare, Leo DiCaprio and sappy, tear-jerker romance junkie, I absolutely adore this movie. Let's spell it out: Director Baz Luhrmann, the man who later brought us "Moulin Rouge," updates Shakespeare's classic to modern times by moving it to Verona Beach while still maintaining the gorgeous language that we know and love. The zaniness of the modern twist is beautiful to behold. Guns take the place of swords and Hawaiian shirts the place of capes and codpieces. Mercutio, as a drug-consuming drag-queen, throws a whole new spin on his Queen Mab speech. Romeo and Juliet sneak a make-out session in an elevator instead of sticking to long glances and restrained palm-to-palm action.
Chick-Flick Elements: The story of Romeo and Juliet truly marks the early, 16th century beginnings of the chick-flick genre. Disregarding the slight sketchiness of Juliet being only 13, the idea of a love-at-first-sight so true that both lovers are willing to die for each other even though they've only met three days before is still beautifully romantic.
Casting Trivia: Though Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kate Winslet, Christina Ricci and Reese Witherspoon were all considered for the role of Juliet, Natalie Portman was the closest to actually getting the part. But when she flew to Sydney to film a few trial scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio, director Luhrmann claimed she looked much too young to be given the role. Portman, being only 5 feet 3 inches, was dwarfed by DiCaprio's 6 feet 1 inches, to the point that when they kissed on screen, Luhrmann said "it just became obscene." Claire Danes was eventually given the part.
"Love Story" (1970)
This classic -- starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal -- follows two star-crossed lovers, a rich Harvard jock and a poor music student, and their relationship as it's threatened by financial hardships and eventually the girl's terminal illness.
Chick-Flick Elements: This film has the works. Unabashedly tear-jerking story line -- check. Teenage rebellion against a father who Just Doesn't Understand -- got that. Ridiculously emotional, instrumental theme song -- but of course. Like any good chick flick should, the movie glosses over the details of the girl's terminal illness, including no gruesome or specific details about her disease. The main sign of her health's deterioration is that she can no longer ice skate in Central Park. Oh, the tragedy.
Movie Tagline: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
"Miss Congeniality" (2000)
Sandra Bullock is an FBI agent who must go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant to save the Miss United States "Scholarship Competition" from a serial-killer attack. Along the way, she learns to walk in high heels, makes a fool of herself repeatedly on national television and falls in love with a fellow agent.
Chick-Flick Elements: There's a worthy effort here to make Bullock different than other romantic-comedy heroines by giving her a tomboy personality complete with appalling manners and a laugh that's mostly a snort. Yet because this movie is a girly chick flick, she eventually falls prey to becoming just like every other leading lady: pretty, polished and in love. There's also a moment where she hides doughnuts in her bra.
When Art Imitates Life, and It's Slightly Embarrassing for
Humanity: Be forewarned -- the following dialogue from the movie was an
actual answer given by a beauty pageant contestant:
Announcer: Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.
Miss Rhode Island: That's a tough one. I would have to say April 25, because it's not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.
"13 Going On 30" (2004)
Jenna Rink, played by Jennifer Garner, is a 13-year-old girl who, with the help of some "magic wishing dust," awakes to find herself as a 30-year-old woman who has the job, the boyfriend, the co-workers, the boob size and the wardrobe that exactly fulfill her 13-year-old dreams. Though life at first seems perfect, she has trouble coming to terms with the responsibilities of her new adult life.
Chick-Flick Elements: First of all, anything involving magic wishing dust is going to have to appeal to either women or very small children. Second, you only need to look at this movie's soundtrack to understand just how chick-filled this flick is. The Go-Go's, Liz Phair's "Why Can't I?" and the sickeningly feminine pop act Lillix are featured prominently. There's a scene involving a walk-in closet, a wall of shoes and Whitney Houston's song "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." Enough said.
"First Daughter" (2004) and "Chasing Liberty" (2004)
If you're like me and have seen both of these movies, you'll completely understand why they share a spot on this list. These movies have plots so generic that every one of their plot points is nearly identical. In both films, Katie Holmes and Mandy Moore play the daughter of the president who wants to get out in the real world and find out what it's like to be a normal girl -- without bodyguards and without the need to maintain an image in the public eye. They both fall in love with a boy who's eventually revealed to be a secret agent that their father assigned to watch over them. They both feel betrayed. And then they both forgive their guy and live happily ever after.
Chick-Flick Elements: The plot. Is so. Predictable.
Worst Romantic Dialogue Ever (From "Chasing Liberty"):
Anna: Ben, can you ever just say what you really feel?
Ben: OK, all right! Because I'm jealous as hell. Because I'd hate to see you with Gus, because I'd hate to see you with any other man. Because not only did I adore kissing you in Venice but also because I'm so un-bloody-hinged just being near you. Do you think they'll shoot me if I kiss you?
Anna: No, but I will if you don't.
"A Cinderella Story" (2004)
This film's appeal lies in its appalling lack of quality. Hilary Duff plays Samantha, the social outcast who, with the help of IM and cell-phone text messaging, falls in love with an anonymous guy who turns out to be Hot Popular Stud Austin, played by Chad Michael Murray. Samantha's low social status and Austin's controlling dad cause a cringe-filled hour and 35 minutes' worth of drama to ensue, but eventually the couple gets their fairy-tale ending complete with a kiss in the rain and a happily ever after at Princeton, where they're both accepted. This is definitely a self-esteem boosting, feel-good movie: Realizing that scores of intelligent people spent months of their lives creating this film truly makes you see just how meaningful your life is in comparison.
Chick-Flick Elements: In the proper tween-movie tradition, most key aspects of the story line don't make much sense. For instance, there's absolutely no reason for Samantha to be such a social pariah. Even if her shallow peers could overlook her intelligence or kindness, she's still too gorgeous to conceivably be shoved to the bottom of the social hierarchy. Another key flaw occurs at the masquerade ball, where Samantha is to meet her prince in person for the first time wearing only a ridiculously small white mask to conceal her identity. Yet in a turn of events that truly slanders Princeton's admissions standards, she doesn't realize how tenuous her attempt at anonymity is, and Austin doesn't realize who he's dancing with.
Honest Sidenote: The entertainment value of this film mostly comes from watching Murray, six years older than his co-star, try to maintain his dignity while spewing "cool slang phrases" such as "I gotta bounce."
What's your favorite chick flick? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Becky Davis is a high-school junior in Seattle. When she's not studying, she pretends she can play Frisbee and/or contemplates getting her ears pierced.