The romantic comedy has a pretty straight-forward play book. What makes one fresh is either a good performance and a nice twist before we get to the expected happily ever after.
"Marry Me" (9 p.m. Lifetime, Sunday & Monday) has one of the two qualities. Which makes it a not-unpleasant way to spend four hours, but not a grand slam.
It tells the story of Rae Ann Carter (Lucy Liu), a social worker with artistic aspirations who wants the fairy tale -- the handsome man who's smart, funny and will love her always. When we meet her, she's on her way to meet her boyfriend of two years Adam (Bobby Cannavale), who she thinks is going to propose. Turns out he's not.
Rae's single status means she's treated like a pity case, so her mom (Annie Potts) gets their pastor to fix her up with his nephew Luke (Steven Pasquale), a handsome architect. Their first meeting seems rocky, but Luke is smitten. He's met the woman he wants to marry and he quickly proposes.
But then, Adam returns and he wants Rae back. He proposes too, and Rae might be interested. And then Luke's wealthy bon vivant friend (Enrique Murciano) decides Rae's just the woman to end his playboy ways. Whom will she choose?
What absolutely works in this film is Liu. She's terrifically charming; her Rae is smart, funny, pretty, modern -- just what you want in a lead. And if you're wondering how Annie Potts could be her mother, Liu's character has been adopted in the film.
What doesn't work is the fact that there's absolutely no reason "Marry Me" should be a "2-part movie event." There's a perfectly lovely two-hour movie buried under the unnecessary plot lines the writers added to stretch this film. Romantic comedies tend to reference one another, but good gracious, this one nearly references EVERY romantic comedy. The makers of "Pretty Woman" should get royalties off of a segment in part two. One sub plot follows the relationship between Rae and a foster child Immy (Vanessa Marano), who keeps getting kicked out of various homes. Marano played Luke's daughter on "Gilmore Girls." At one point when they are bantering, Immy says 'too Gilmore Girls?' The writers probably thought that was a sly wink at the audience when it actually only highlights all the wayward places the film's writing goes.
It's a shame because trimmed, "Marry Me" would have been a perfectly fine addition to the rom-com canon. The men are cute, there are some witty lines, the locales are pretty, and that search for the fairy tale never gets old.
Catch it for Liu's performance, but don't feel bad if your mind wanders a bit as you watch. You can still get the gist.