Although wildly popular, romantic comedies are extremely susceptible to being formulaic — people just love to see uptight career women give in to love. And 99% of those romantic comedies are targeted toward white audiences, with really white characters in really white situations, occasionally making a half-assed attempt to lure in a minority audience by writing a token black friend into the script. Personally, I find romantic comedies geared specifically toward black audiences to be much more relatable and enjoyable. Maybe it’s because the women are more in control and the characters are less neurotic in general, or maybe it’s because Morris Chestnut is in 50% of them.
Just look at this smile right here and try not to feel better about everything:
Also, has there ever been a man more suited for the name Morris Chestnut than Morris Chestnut?
Anyway, get to know some notable black romantic comedies from the last 15 years. You’ll notice that the same roster of actors get shuffled and redistributed in each movie. If that’s not a comment on the proportion of mainstay black actors to mainstay white actors, then I don’t know what is (but I’m also kind of hypnotized by that Morris Chestnut GIF, so it might also be that).
“The Wood” (1999)
Mike (Omar Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones) must get their best friend Roland (Taye Diggs) to the altar when he gets cold feet and starts reminiscing about his high school sweetheart. As Mike narrates the story of their youth in Inglewood, aka The Wood, he also recalls his first crush, Alicia (Sanaa Lathan), who he sees at the wedding in present day. “The Wood” is a realistic and touching story of youth and the experiences that carry you into adulthood. The awkward moments are unapologetic, and the heart of it pumps without gushing. And how many movies set in Inglewood can tell a story without shoving gangs and violence in your face? And nobody should ever say no to a movie involving ’70s fashion, ever, especially when worn by awkward teens in Inglewood.
“The Best Man” (1999)
As Lance (Morris Chestnut!) prepares for his wedding to Mia (Monica Calhoun), his best friend, Harper (Taye Diggs), prepares for the publication of his autobiography, which reveals a big secret — that Monica had cheated on Lance with Harper. It’s not the only predicament that Harper’s in, as he’s also torn between committing to his loving girlfriend, Robin (Sanaa Lathan), and avoiding getting tied down at this stage of his life. Meanwhile, Harper’s almost-lover, Jordan (Nia Long), gets mixed up in his predicament and threatens both his friendship and relationship. But that’s not all! Julian (Harold Perrineau) falls in love with Candace (Regina Hall), a stripper with a heart of gold who he meets at the bachelor party. There’s basically nothing not to love about this movie, k? Just trust me. Apparently others loved it too because a sequel was released this November 15 years after the first movie. And it was just as enjoyable, even with an abundance of man-crying, maybe especially because of the man-crying. Added bonus: as a result of the recent rise of the token white guy, Eddie Cibrian plays just that (the bonus part is that something was able to help him escape the clutches of Leann Rimes for a little while).
“Love & Basketball” (2000)
Not only is this movie well-written, well-acted and well-paced, but it successfully romanticized the sport of basketball — what other movie can say that? And I love the fact that Monica (Sanaa Lathan) is completely and utterly Quincy’s (Omar Epps) equal. From the moment they meet, she challenges him to a game of basketball and runs circles around him. He has to resort to pushing her to the ground, and as she’s cleaning her wound, she inspects it in the mirror and smiles, knowing it’s a badge of honor.
What young, white female would ever do that in a rom-com? As someone who willingly bruises herself in krav maga class every week, Monica is my kind of girl. She gets up from falling down and sets the tone for the rest of her and Quincy’s lives. No matter where their careers take them, it’s Monica who keeps on getting in Quincy’s face and challenges him to be good enough for her.
“The Brothers” (2001)
One of the biggest distinctions between romantic comedies for white audience and romantic comedies for black comedies is the gender factor. The vast majority of white rom-coms are made for and watched by women, while a large percentage of black rom-coms are targeted at and watched by men. “The Brothers” is a perfect example of the male-oriented rom-com. It’s basically “Sex and the City” with black men. Jackson (Morris Chestnut!), Derrick (D.L. Hughley), Brian (Bill Bellamy) and Terry (Shemar Moore) gab so much about their relationships it makes an episode of “SATC” look like “Tool Time.” Instead of brunch in the Village, the guys meet up regularly on the basketball court to vent their frustrations and make their punny jokes. OK, maybe not the latter, but … Morris Chestnut!
“Think Like a Man” (2012)
OK, this one’s not going to win any awards of any sort, except maybe best use of Michael Ealy’s lips in a scene, but it’s got everything you need in an ensemble comedy for one of those nights when you just want to turn off your phone (and brain) and spend some quality time with NyQuil. Based on Steve Harvey’s real-life book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” (let’s not go there right now), the story follows four couples and Kevin Hart as they struggle to understand the opposite sex and realize what they really want in life and love.
Oh man, maybe I should start writing movie descriptions for Netflix. Some of the characters include single mom Candace (Regina Hall — does she ever play anyone not named Candace?) who struggles with unrelenting mama’s boy, Michael (Terrence J), independent career woman Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) who has to choose between cook/valet attendant Dominic (Ealy) and wealthy businessman James (Morris Chestnut!), and perennial player Zeke (Romany Malco) who falls for Mya (Meagan Good), who won’t sleep with a guy until 90 days into their relationship. Somewhere in this movie, you will find a scenario that relates to your life. And for those of you white folks who utterly lack imagination and can only relate to other white people, there not one, but two token white guys in this movie: Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Bennett (Gary Owen).