I thought MBFGW was cute, and fairly amusing. Not a masterpiece, or even uproariously funny, but generally good fun.
So, I can certainly explain why iut became a hit. What I CAN’T explain is why it became a blockbuster… but then, if I were any good at predicting that sort of thing, I’d be working in Hollywood.
I should point out something that several people seem to be missing: INITIALLY, at least, MBFGW was a small movie playing in limited release. It was perceived as a little, heartfelt, independent film (even if it DID have Tom Hanks’ wife backing it). And that was part of the perceived charm. People who saw it early on, before it became a hit, thought “Wow, I’ve discovered a gem of a little film that nobody else knows about.” And it always feels good to be the first to “discover” something. That may be why the people who liked this film felt a need to spread the world, and to tell girlfriends, “You have to see this movie!”
Moreover, when people see an unheralded film with a no-name cast, they tend to grade it on a curve. If a much-hyped romantic comedy with Meg Ryan turns out to be just so-so, people walk out disappointed. They say, “It was cute, and it had a few laughs, but it wasn’t anything special. I give it a C, tops.” On the other hand, when people see a NON-hyped film, for which they have no expectations, if it’s just so-so, people walk out happy! They say, “well, it wasn’t a classic, but it was cute and it had a few good laughs- I give it a B+, maybe an A-”
My theory: people who saw it in its first two months of release love it. People who’ve seen it in the LAST two months, however, have heard all about this film. They KNOW it’s made $200 million, and they expected something great. THOSE folks are scratching their heads and wondering "What’s so great about it? "
One other theory: when couples go to the movies, they often play the game of “If you let me pick this one, we’ll go to whatever YOU want to see next time.” So, romantic comedies are often “payback” from a woman who sat through “Spiderman” for her boyfriend/husband. I know first-hand: my wife sat stoically through “The Two Towers” for me, then warned me “You owe me ‘Two Weeks Notice’ AND ‘Maid in Manhattan’ for that, pal!”
I’d bet that MBFGW was a “revenge” film for a lot of wives and girlfriends last summer!