It will take a few more needle-moving hits to recognize the last few years as a period of all-star romantic comedy revivalism, but there is certainly something in the water. The wholesome teen crush of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before warmed the hearts of even the most snobbish movie critics. The Big Sick fictionalized a very real romance, challenging the surrealist magic of the traditional rom-com. And streaming services have tried to bankroll quick and easy rom-coms that take place outside of high school halls, but mostly to lackluster results. Clearly, if any streaming giant has figured out how to dominate the genre while Hollywood looks towards big blockbusters, it’s Netflix.
And yet, their latest offering leans a touch too far into rom-com tropes where an overwhelmingly predictable plot distracts from the love story. Instead of using the rom-com formula to its advantage, the movie spoils itself within the first few minutes, making for an unmemorable albeit entertaining watch.
Set in Seattle in the fall, Love, Guaranteed stars Rachael Leigh Cook (She’s All That, Josie and the Pussycats) as Susan Whitaker, a loveless civil litigator with a heart of gold, and Damon Wayans Jr. (New Girl, Happy Endings) as Nick Evans, her client, a man who’s gone on 986 dates using a Tinder-like dating app called Love, Guaranteed without finding love. As the title suggests, love is “guaranteed” after 1,000 dates, which is apparently legally binding. Nick has conveniently cataloged every date he’s been on, labeling them “the one who ___” like an episode of Friends, and it somehow stands up in court. While Susan thinks he’s going after an easy payday, Nick thinks she’s an ambulance-chasing attorney. In doing research for the case, they become closer and closer until they fall for each other, going on impromptu dates throughout the process.
There isn’t a single plot twist in Love, Guaranteed that isn’t seen coming from a mile away. The movie is written as linearly as possible, with no surprises or dramatic climax. From the get, the assumption is that these narcs will get together (and they are adorably narc-y, both dedicated to justice and truth-telling through their individual pursuits—they’re also both online dating skeptics, an obnoxiously antiquated opinion to hold in 2020) and they do get together, with too few jokes thrown in for good measure. Cook’s character, for example, drives an old orange Volkswagen that sporadically blasts Tiffany’s 1987 hit “I Think We’re Alone Now,” as the tape has been lodged in the car for decades. She also has charming associates who behave like her supportive BFFs, though they really only serve the role of comic relief.
I found it pleasant to consider this film as some alternative-universe fan fiction where the protagonist in She’s All That, also portrayed by Cook, grew up and became the world’s most ethical lawyer 21 years later, but beyond that image, there’s not much to write home about.
That may be a good thing. Some pleasures can be temporary, disposable, a Friday night watch disregarded on Saturday morning. Love, Guaranteed is a perfect film to turn on and tune out, to scroll endlessly on your phone and glance up to view Damon Wayans Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook’s platonic chemistry turn romantic, to feel warm for a few minutes.