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After a long dip in popularity, the romantic comedy seems to be making a resurgence

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Rom-coms - romantic comedies - they're corny, sometimes swoon-worthy, and, if you pay attention to movies, they're everywhere lately. Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell found a box-office hit in "Anyone But You" this winter.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ANYONE BUT YOU")

SYDNEY SWEENEY: (As Beatrice) You know, maybe we should do it - just tell everyone we're together.

GLEN POWELL: (As Ben) Making her jealous is not going to work. We're not in seventh grade.

SWEENEY: (As Beatrice) Trust me, bro. We're all in seventh grade when it comes to this stuff.

FADEL: The latest rom-com to top Netflix charts is called "A Family Affair." Zac Efron plays a conceited Hollywood actor, and he hooks up with his assistant's mother, played by Nicole Kidman.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A FAMILY AFFAIR")

ZAC EFRON: (As Chris) I've been waiting for you forever.

NICOLE KIDMAN: (As Brooke) Is that a line from the movie?

EFRON: (As Chris) Yeah, but this time, I mean it.

KIDMAN: (As Brooke) Oh, that's so hot.

FADEL: (Laughter) Linda Holmes cohosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and she's here to shed some light on the phenomenon that is the rom-com resurgence. Hi, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi.

FADEL: OK. So I really like rom-coms, so I'm down with this resurgence. Let's talk about the Netflix hit "A Family Affair." Why are people connecting with this one so much?

HOLMES: Well, I really like the performances. Zac Efron, who's been building a really interesting career for himself since kind of breaking out as a Disney kid with the "High School Musical" stuff, is really funny, playing this kind of meathead Hollywood actor. Nicole Kidman is playing a role that's a little bit lighter than some of the really sad stories she's been working on for the last few years, and I really like Joey King, who plays her daughter and Efron's assistant, so very good chemistry all around, and that's what rom-coms live on. That's what sold me on this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A FAMILY AFFAIR")

JOEY KING: (As Zara) Is this about the movie?

EFRON: (As Chris) I'm worried that the script doesn't make sense.

KING: (As Zara) That's because it doesn't make sense. It's very confusing. Like, the whole, like, department store Santa being a Nordic terrorist thing?

EFRON: (As Chris) They want it to be a Christmas movie. It's "Die Hard" meets "Miracle On 34th Street." The real Santa is kidnapped.

KING: (As Zara) Why do you have to go to Antarctica before you're running with the suicide-bombing reindeer? Like, do you hear how stupid that sounds?

EFRON: (As Chris) No. It's "Die Hard" meets "Miracle on 34th Street," with a little bit of "Speed."

KING: (As Zara) But "Speed" was already "Die Hard" on a bus.

EFRON: (As Chris) Now you're just being confusing on purpose.

KING: (As Zara) No, I've been...

HOLMES: And this plot, by the way, where a woman falls for a much younger famous person, might remind people of a film called "The Idea Of You," which came out recently and starred Anne Hathaway. Although I will say, I liked this one a lot better.

FADEL: So Hollywood loves a trend, so I imagine this is the beginning of a bunch of rom-coms coming our way. What should we be keeping an eye out for for the rest of the summer?

HOLMES: There are a few. This Friday, there's a film called "Fly Me To The Moon" with Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, so that's the kind of, like, big star power that in my younger days you would get in rom-coms. It's set in the '60s. It's about a staged moon landing, and I'm kind of looking forward to this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FLY ME TO THE MOON")

CHANNING TATUM: (As Cole) If you fake this mission, every single thing that we have sacrificed will have been for nothing.

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (As Kelly) You know you couldn't have made it to this day without me.

HOLMES: There's also a Harry Connick Jr. movie coming out the next week that's called "Find Me Falling," where he plays a musician who moves to Cyprus and reconnects with an old flame.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIND ME FALLING")

HARRY CONNICK JR: (As John) I waited for you that day.

AGNI SCOTT: (As Sia) I was young. I was scared.

ALI FUMIKO WHITNEY: (As Melina) He crossed an ocean, and he waited a lifetime. So did you.

FADEL: Oh, I'm here for all this corniness. OK, Linda - is it fair to consider this moment the resurgence of rom-coms?

HOLMES: Well, rom-coms change shape more than they ever really go away.

FADEL: Right.

HOLMES: Love stories, after all, are one of the oldest kinds of tales, so there are always romances, and there are always rom-coms. The ones on basic cable have always stayed popular - your Hallmark and Lifetime movies and so forth...

FADEL: Right.

HOLMES: ...But, like most movie genres that tend to be medium-sized movies, whether it's adult dramas or courtroom dramas or thrillers or what have you, the theatrical presence of romantic comedies isn't what it was from, say, the late '80s to the early 2000s. I think they're finding some success, though, on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and there are also some very good TV series now in the rom-com genre. There's one called "Colin From Accounts" that's lovely. That's an Australian show you can find on Paramount+ in the U.S. "Starstruck" on Max is another one. Both of those are essentials if you're a rom-com person. So I think, yes, there is a little more happening on-screen in this space than there was for a while.

FADEL: That's Linda Holmes, pop culture correspondent and co-host of NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Thanks, Linda.

HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.