Adam Sandler lucked out. Instead of having to sell his soul to the Devil to become a top-grossing, leading man, he found a inexplicable role that Hollywood continues to perpetuate and sell to the masses: the smug, amoral love interest.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sandler returns with Just Go with It, in which he pretends to be a married man as a way of roping in sympathetic woman. His best friend (Jennifer Aniston) strongly disagrees with his practices – think they’ll fall in love? Of course they will, this isn’t a Lars von Trier film.
Forgiveness is pushed to its limits in American romantic comedies and Sandler isn’t the only offender. Countless relationships have blossomed from a quick change of heart and a tagged-on apology, and the formula continues to work. When the nice guys finish last, these guys finish first:
9. Melvin Udall – As Good As It Gets
Jack Nicholson has been playing invidious characters for over 50 years: provoking mental patients, chasing his family with an axe, throwing coke up a whore’s ass – you name it, he’s done it. As Melvin in As Good As It Gets, Nicholson again plays a rough soul, but this time, gets the girl too. Melvin starts as a stingy misanthrope who openly hates on his gay neighbor and is such a germaphobe he can’t listen to stories about his love interest’s asthmatic eight-year-old. Luckily, money can buy happiness (important lesson) – and Melvin shacks all the people he has wronged into his New York City high rise, where they love him forever.
8. Will – About a Boy
If you ever meet a woman who says she’s into guys with “edge,” she’s probably a big fan of Hugh Grant, who manages to belittle and depreciate most of his romantic comedy co-stars while simultaneously making them swoon. About a Boy is the pinnacle of his ways: Grant’s character Will coasts on an inheritance, spending most of his days smoking and watching television, with an occasional break to decline requests from his friends to be their son’s Godfather or join a single parent’s therapy session in order to meet women. A stand-up guy for sure, who wins over Rachel Weisz by stealing the spotlight at her son’s school talent show. All in a hard day’s work. Now, back to the couch!
7. Dean Proffitt – Overboard
Do the ends justify the means? Joanna (Goldie Hawn) and Dean (Kurt Russell) inevitably fall in love by the end of Overboard – it’s directed by Gary Marshall, after all. But the two opposites only attract after Joanna falls over the rail of a yacht, slips into a coma, is kidnapped by Dean, a vengeful carpenter, and awoken to a life of familial servitude. In most cases, Joanna’s realization that she’s been taken advantage of would land Dean in jail for 25 to life, but in Overboard, the incident helps her learn an important lesson about not being greedy. It was her fault the whole time.
6. Tracy Samantha Lord Haven – The Philadelphia Story
Let’s not put all the blame on guys. Ladies aren’t all perfect either. Take the epically named Tracy Samantha Lord Haven (Katherine Hepburn) in The Philadelphia Story, who strings along three men: her fiancee, her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter. All three men seem to be hunky-dory with her indecisive actions and promiscuous ways, especially considering Tracy ends up drinking too many Mint Juleps the night before her wedding and takes a late night swim with the reporter. After breaking off her wedding, the three gents continue to clamor for her. Maybe men in the 1940s really were that desperate for wives.
5. Sam – Addicted to Love
Birthing a new relationship out of the ashes of two old ones sounds like just the thing for a couple of sullen singles – they already have so much in common! But when your shared activity is tormenting the dumpees (who are now dating one another)…well, that’s not right. Maggie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Matthew Broderick) join forces to stalk and break up their romantically involved exes, only to become romantically involved themselves. The union would be satisfyingly sweet if it weren’t for their complete psychological unbalance and unavoidable assault charges.
4. Ben Stone – Knocked Up
Ben Stone’s (Seth Rogen) three priorities are smoking weed, starting a Mr. Skin knock-off and getting laid. The first one is a piece of cake. The second is an idea that only sounds possible after accomplishing number one. The third ends in the drunken fiasco known as unplanned pregnancy. That’s the guy whose baby you want to keep – no? Alison (Katherine Heigl) gives it a chance anyway and eventually falls for the schlub. Hopefully fusing her DNA with Ben’s will result in a well-mannered child.
3. Jamie Randall – Love and Other Drugs
Anne Hathaway’s Maggie has been slighted by men in the past who couldn’t deal with her evolving, degenerative Parkinson’s, but that all changed when she met Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal). A med school drop-out with a propensity for banging countless women, Jamie turns to the art of pharmaceutical representation and crosses paths with Maggie during his routine disposal of rival companies’ drug samples. A sleaze with a heart of gold, the couple appear to be a match made in heaven…until Jamie realizes he thinks Parkinson’s disease is totally gross, yo. Who would not want to take that guy back?!
2. Daniel Cleaver – Bridget Jones’s Diary
I may have to take that back about About a Boy being the pinnacle of Hugh Grant’s douchery. In Bridget Jones’s Diary, the debonair Brit teams up with Colin Firth to emotionally devastate Renee Zellweger. By “teams up,” I mean Firth’s character Mark writes Bridget off as an idiot to her face, causing her to fall into a relationship with Grant’s Daniel (who previously slept with Mark’s wife and broke up their marriage), with the whole mess crescendoing into a fist fight over Bridget. Gents – there’s nothing honorable about throwing punches in the name of love when both you and the man you’re quarreling with are scumbugs, even if the lady at the center of it won’t notice. Bridget does not to do female kind any favors in this film.
1. Isaac – Manhattan
Woody doesn’t make it easy for any man or woman to see through his twisted ways. He’s a lovable guy; the wry writer is never without the perfect joke or an adorable, every-man grin. By the end of Manhattan, his tactics make even the viewer forget that the 42-year-old jumps from dating a 17-year-old to romancing his best friend’s mistress then back again to the 17-year-old. His final gesture to his young sweetheart is one of romance – but she’s 17! And he’s Woody Allen! And she’s 17! And he’s Woody Allen! Cue life imitating art jokes.
Which lovable ass do you love the most?