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Some examples of romance done right

>Modern gems

For latter-day romantic comedies, you can't beat the Nora Ephron-Meg Ryan triumverate: "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail."

In "When Harry Met Sally," Ryan and Billy Crystal are friends who take years to discover they're perfect for other. This was more than a hit movie. It has become part of the collective consciousness.

In "Sleepless in Seattle," Ryan plays a reporter who falls for a lonely widower (Tom Hanks) as she listens to him tell his story over the radio. Ephron's affection for the classic tearjerker "An Affair to Remember" is worked into the movie.

Ryan and Hanks are magic again in "You've Got Mail," a modern reworking of the 1940 movie "The Shop Around the Corner." Ephron has updated the story to have the two falling in love through their anonymous e-mails, while they bicker over business face-to-face.

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>Still classic

The screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s are considered classic today for good reason: they're funny, smart and entertaining.

"It Happened One Night" used the rich socialite-meets-working guy scenario to perfection. Claudette Colbert is the spoiled heiress and runaway bride who meets up on the road with rogue reporter Clark Gable.

"You Can't Take It With You," based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, remains a laugh fest. Rich guy Jimmy Stewart falls for his secretary (Jean Arthur) who has the wackiest family around.

"The Philadelphia Story" involves another spoiled heiress (Katherine Hepburn) planning on marrying the wrong guy. Her ex-hubby Cary Grant tries to stop the wedding to comic effect. Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar as a reporter who briefly falls for Hepburn.

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>High school romance

Who falls in love as hard as high school students? No one and that's why high school romances can be so touching.

To many of us, the name Lloyd Dobler conjures up the vision of the perfect man. The fact that he was a high school senior played by John Cusack in the 1989 comedy "Say Anything," doesn't diminish the movie's charm even though we're all grown up now. Lloyd is still the best: sweet, funny, vulnerable and best friend to all. When he falls for the smartest and most beautiful girl at school (Ione Skye), everyone is rooting for him. Their courtship is simply winning. A few years back, "Say Anything" was named the top modern romance by Entertainment Weekly.

Two other appealing high school romances were written and produced by John Hughes. Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy played kissy-face while Jon Cryer steals the show as the lovestruck Duckie in "Pretty in Pink." Look for James Spader ("Boston Legal") as a snooty yuppie scum who causes trouble for the young lovebirds. In "Some Kind of Wonderful," Eric Stoltz was so blinded by Lea Thompson that he couldn't see that he was made to be with his tomboy best friend, Mary Stuart Masterson.

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>Underrated and forgotten

We all have our favorite movies we like to share with others because they fell through the cracks.

"The Truth About Cats and Dogs" is for all of the wonderful women who hold themselves up to unrealistic Hollywood standards. Janeane Garofalo stars as a veterinarian with an inferiority complex who sends her gorgeous model-neighbor (Uma Thurman) as a stand-in for a blind date with cute photographer Ben Chaplin.

"The Very Thought of You": Monica Potter plays an unhappy woman who impulsively leaves her dreary life behind by flying to the first place she can get to for $99. Luckily for her, it's London, where she meets three charming and handsome best friends played by Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell and Tom Hollander. A clever and unexpected writing device makes this lots of fun.

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>New contenders

Here are four upcoming romantic comedies. Will they pass the test?

*"Lucky You," opens Friday. Hunky "Hulk" Eric Bana plays a professional poker player who falls for singer Drew Barrymore.

*"The Ex," opens May 11. Zach Braff plays an underachiever who has to work when his pregnant wife quits her high-paying, but high-pressure, job as a lawyer.

*"I Could Never Be Your Woman," opens June 15. This awkwardly titled movie from Amy Heckerling stars Michelle Pfeiffer as a mother who falls for a younger man (Paul Rudd).

*"License to Wed," opens July 4. Mandy Moore and John Krasinski play a young couple that has to pass a foolproof marriage-prep course given by Reverend Frank (played by Robin Williams).

-- Toni Ruberto

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