In my below-cited-and-linked review of No Strings Attached for MSN Movies, I refer to the film as "yet another these-two-wacky-kids-belong-together-and-they're-the-last-ones-to-know-it narrative." WHich, it occurs to me now, makes it sound like I'm judging. Which I am, of course, but the problem is that there's nothing really inherently wrong with the narrative per se, or with its predictability. In fact you could go so far as to say that it is the rock upon which the church of the American cinematic romantic comedy was built. Indeed, the semiotics of stardom were such that in 1940, I imagine that you could guess exactly who was gonna end up with whom at the end of His Girl Friday just be reading the names of the leads: Cary Grant (duh), Rosalind Russell, and Ralph Bellamy. Was poor Ralph's place as the nice fellow who never gets the girl quite so firmly established at this point? Wasn't there, don't know. But I presume so. Thus, it's almost axiomatic, I suppose, that the mediocrity of No Strings Attached can't be ascribed to its predictability.
One thing that distinguishes a great romantic comedy such as His Girl Friday from a mediocre one such as No Strings Attached is perversity. No Strings Attached has none. In a way, watching the new film is like watching the ridiculous ending of Gilda stretched out to nearly two hours. For all the hot-and-heavy sort of free-loving and embarrassingly "frank" talk going on during the film's main section, the ultimate point is that Kutcher and Portman's characters, besides being human and needing to be loved just like everybody else does, are at heart just two healthy American kids who believe in monogamy and marriage and all that kind of good stuff. Things are a bit different in His Girl Friday. Walter Neff and Hildy Johnson "belong" together, all right, because at heart they're both driven neurotic messes who are in true fact married to their rather filthy profession. Hildy's betrothal to Ralph Bellamy's nice but rather boring Bruce is her last stab at a "normal," or what the college kids call "normative," life. The film's "happy" ending—the image above is from the final shot of the picture—consists of Walter winning Hildy back and, immediately upon doing so, conning her out of their honeymoon, detouring their trip to Niagara Falls to Albany so Hildy can cover a strike up there. Bliss.
Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which I do think of as a romantic comedy, and a good one, has a similarly foreordained "gets the girl" ending, which sticks in some folks' craw, as they think that Scott's a bit of a callow jerk who doesn't deserve to get the girl, and also because he was so shitty to Knives, who's so sweet and young and so on. I wasn't particularly bothered by this aspect of the film largely because I was so delighted by its comic inventiveness and overall sense of play that, to be completely honest, the emotional content of the picture never really hooked into me. But I believe that the filmmakers were not at all unaware of all this, and I think in fact in a sense the film's final shot, seen below, addresses the issue of potential audience dissatisfaction with the happy ending...
...and Dennis Cozzalio, who was one of the people initially befuddled by Pilgrim, discusses it with director Edgar Wright in a really fun interview over at Dennis' exceptional blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, which is over on my blogroll, there.