As I write this, I'm currently watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which I remember being my favorite romantic comedy of my junior high days. I've been reading the script for When Harry Met Sally, and a couple days ago at Target, I bought The Holiday (another one of my favorites) on sale for $4.75.
Let's try to ignore the underlying implication of why there are so many rom-coms in my life lately, and instead focus on the fact that I am a firm believer in the fact that they can be divided into two separate genres: Smart Rom-Coms, and Dumb Rom-Coms. The Smart ones work because they don't just rely on the fact that girls want to be sucked into a story and led to believe that the male love interest is worthy of pining over. They have strong, witty writing and believable characters with real flaws. My favorite examples of the Smart Rom-Com include When Harry Met Sally, The Holiday, and The Awful Truth (not to be confused with the Katherine Heigl/Gerard Butler film The Ugly Truth...never saw it, don't plan to).
On the other side of the coin are Dumb Rom-Coms. They tend to recycle the incredibly generic formula of "Boy meets Girl, Boy deceives Girl and/or Girl deceives boy, someone finds out, Boy and girl are through, but after some time of healing they realize they belong together and ignore the previous deception." The End. There is also plenty of eye candy to distract from the fact that audiences have already seen this movie, just in a different setting and with different-looking characters. In my opinion, dumb Rom-Coms include She's All That, Someone Like You, and From Justin to Kelly. Also, I've never seen it, but I'm sure what they say about Gigli is true. These films are an insult to the audience's intelligence, expecting them to believe that the characters presented are realistic and likable when they are actually one-dimensional and usually pretty annoying.
So a note to anyone who is planning on writing a Romantic Comedy at any point in the future (including me)...write real characters. I want Billy Crystal, not Freddie Prinze Jr.