The MatchMaker (1997) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for language and sexual humor
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Janeane Garofalo, David O'Hara, Denis Leary, Milo O'Shea, Jay O' Sanders, Rosaleen Linehan, Paul Hickey, Saffron Burrows, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Director: Mark Joffe

Screenplay: Karen Janszen, Louis Norwa, Graham Linehan

The MatchMaker is a very by-the-numbers rom-com (despite the tagline of it being a romantic comedy for people who don't like them) that is only modestly successful for genre fans because it embraces the tried-and-true formula to a tee.  The formula is this -- In a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy, whenever a big city girl goes to a small country town, you can expect these plot points:

1. The country town is full of kooks.

2. The kooks seem far too kooky to the city girl, and the city girl standoffish to the kooks.

3. The city girl will find a handsome kook who isn't quite like the others, who she bonds with.

4. City girl lets her hair down, embracing small town kooky values, while kooks embrace her as one of their own.

5. City girl and handsome kook find they are too different to ever get things to work out.  City girl heads home.

6. Chase scene.

7. Handsome kook and city girl find a reason why it will work out despite the reason given during plot point no. 5.

Generally, these kinds of stories take place in places that have a lot of drinking and fistfights, such as the Southern US States, Australia, or in this case, Ireland, where much action can happen in and out of pubs or bars, which allows the kooks to be drunk and extra kooky, while the handsome kook can save the city girl's honor when things get out of hand.  Broad stereotypes abound, but it's ok to foster these as long as the people you are stereotyping are patronized by being loveable and harmless, and their values are upheld as being better overall than those from the big city.

In the case of The MatchMaker, Garofalo (Mystery Men, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion) plays Marcy Tizard, a hardworking aide to John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders, The Day After Tomorrow), a popular Senator from Massachusetts with Presidential aspirations that is currently finding himself on the losing end of a re-election bid.  His opponent is touting a "family values" platform, so to beat him at his own game, and to court the large Irish vote in the State, McGlory sends Marcy to Ireland to trace his Irish roots.  She visits the seaside town of Ballinagra, just in time to get caught in in the local Matchmaking Festival, where local bachelors and bachelorettes are paired off in couples.  Needless to say, Marcy catches the eye of many of the local gents, including an opinionated malcontent named Sean (David O'Hara) .

How much you enjoy The MatchMaker will probably come down to two factors: how much you like romantic comedies and how much you enjoy Janeane Garofalo's acerbic delivery.  Garofalo shows a softer side than usual, but it comes off as genuine, although her personality definitely lends better to the comedy side of things than the romance.  As far as the story as a whole, it's standard formula, likeable in its own fashion yet without any surprises or distinction, other than the Irish backdrop.  Not good, but not terrible either, this is innocuous fare for people who don't want any surprises in their cutesy, feel-good comedies.  

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo