I once read a Roger Ebert in which he made an interesting distinction between a “family movie” and a “children’s movie,” arguing that some films are great because they *do not* attempt to cater to an entire family, but instead speak solely to the children. Some family movies, he said, get so caught up in trying to produce sight gags and in-jokes for parents that they completely forget about the kids. On the flip side, some “children’s movies” are so geared toward children that the are downright unwatchable for adults.
To these definitions, I also add a distinction between “romantic comedy” and “chick flick.” There are some films that seem to be made for couples; there’s a strong male lead (Steve Carrell in “Date Night,” for instance, or Will Smith in “Hutch”), jokes that appeal to both genders, an awareness that men are in the theater and that we don’t want to squirm too much. “Sex and the City” (the series) actually has quite a few episodes that fall under this category, focusing enough on the male mind/ego that we don’t mind listening to Carrie talk about shoes the rest of the time. But “Sex and the City” also has quite a few episodes where the sole focus is the shoes, where it’s all girls everywhere, pink and purple, Cosmos and martinis and screaming screaming girls, and–as a man–I can only watch this sort of thing with headphones on. This is a “chick flick,” not a “romantic comedy.” I am not the audience, not even remotely.
“Confessions of a Shopaholic” is a “chick flick.” It is a movie created solely for females, preferably large groups of females. The male characters are interchangeable, cardboard cut-outs, and the women seem to make all of the interesting decisions and remarks and jokes. There wasn’t a single moment in “Shopaholic” where I actually felt comfortable watching. Thus, I can only defer to my wife’s opinion on this thing and say, “She liked it.”
It’s important to note, though, that “Sex and the City” seemed to make the modern “chick flick” a possibility. There are tons of these types of movies now, films that cater to a female audience without ever pausing to look at or speak to the men in the audience. And while I don’t (and shouldn’t) enjoy this type of movie, I think their existence and their frequency are a much better indication of “gender progress” than a thousand female-empowerment movies/shows like “Catwoman” or “Dangerous Minds” or “Commander in Chief,” which just seem desperate and obvious in their social statements. There’s a huge female audience out there willing to spend a lot of cash to watch independent female characters; we don’t need the women to be presidents or superheroes. We just need them to be strong protagonists.
I don’t know if “Confessions of a Shopaholic” succeeded in any real way, here, but I do think that this represents a trend in Millennial Literature: chick flick as distinct from romantic comedy. Whether it will ultimately prove to be a profitable decision in the long-run…?