Approximately twelve months ago, our esteemed Pajiba Lover Joanna Robinson set out to make a list of the best on-screen couples of 2011; noting somewhat ominously the dearth of any actual, blood-pumping romances released. Based on the top 100 highest grossing films according to Box Office Mojo, 2012 may have been an even worse year for those fools who love to inwardly rush. For you English nerds, we’re not talking about the romanticism of Edgar Allan Poe — as he was definitely, unfortunately, covered last year. Alas and alack, we’re talking about boy/girl meets girl/boy; boy/girl loses girl/boy; only for the boy/girl to win the girl/boy back through some spectacularly dramatic act showcasing his/her love and devotion for she/he, whom the plot decrees are soulmates.
Oh, sure, there was the annual Nicholas Sparks’ weepie and yet another Twilight, but it’s possible our own Celebrities Are Better Than Youer Courtney Enlow Hall may be the only person willing to admit her unabashed feels for the former, and only people with severe developmental problems would ever consider the latter to be in any way romantic in the less-Poe-more-Lancelot fashion. Only until Fifty Shades of Grey is finally adapted for the big screen will cinema be openly and obviously embracing the traditional romance again. Until then, it seems Hollywood is heavily invested in showcasing some of the strongest friendships, parternships, and familial bonds since the final scene of Casablanca. I don’t what any of this might say about the state of culture, but I’m sure it says something.
Without further ado, here are the Most Dynamic Duos in Cinema of 2012. Some will indeed have shades of romance, or bromance, but that’s almost totally beside the point in terms of how these relationships were depicted on screen. Enjoy (and click on the character names for some topical video goodness)!
Commissioner Gordon and John Blake, The Dark Knight Rises
Since we’re talking about “dynamic duos” and a Batman movie was released this year (several, actually, if you count the animated fare), I’d be remiss not to include one of the pairings from Rises. But rather than Batman and his movie adapted version of Robin, John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the real parternship in this movie is that of “Robin” and his mentor on the Gotham Major Crimes Unit, Commissioner Gordon. As much they assist Batman in his Batmanning, these two cops really do the lion’s share of the work in finally toppling Bane’s reign of destruction and chaos while Bruce Wayne is off luxuriating in tortue dungeon. By the time the movie was over, I was a little dispirited when Blake decided to forego the police department, because damn I’d really be down for a GCPD movie featuring JGL and Gary Oldman.
Black Widow and Hawkeye, The Avengers
Since we’re on the subject of superheroes (when am I not, right?), it’s worth pointing out that by the time everyone was enjoying their Schwarma in the Marvel Movie Universe I was also pining for another duo to get their own feature film. While the Black Widow’s scenes with Bruce Banner/the Hulk were probably the best in the movie, they don’t really spend a lot of time working together. On the other hand, Scarlet Johannson and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye had chemistry whether they were fighting against each other or together, and that coupled with the hints of their shared history is more than enough to justify a standalone movie — either a prequel or a sequel would do. At the very least, can we get some cameos for the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show?
James Bond and M, Skyfall
The characters of British espionage agents James Bond and M have long shared the screen together, but only once before this year did the spy and his spymaster both become intertwined in the same case on an emotional level. The less said about The World is Not Enough, the better. Perhaps it’s simply that Daniel Craig fully inhabits his character more than those before him, but whatever it is, he and Judi Dench’s M have always had a more interesting and complex relationship than any of the previous Bonds and Ms. Because of this affectionate tension, the ending here was much more emotionally resonant than it ever could have been in any of the earlier films. Whenever her successor eventually takes the title, Dame Judi left quite the sensible shoes to fill.
Sam and Suzy, Moonrise Kingdom
Finally, we leave the action set pieces behind — well, the non-quirky, not-overly edited action set pieces — and get to a little bit of that romance mentioned at the top. It’s true that Sam and Suzy, as impishly and impeccably played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Heyward, are in love with each other, are romantics, and will likely have more summers in their future together. I mean, I don’t think Indian Corn scout marriages hold up in any court, though I’ve been wrong once or twice before. But by the end of the film, it’s clear that what we’ve seen is the budding of a lifelong friendship regardless of the characters’ romantic entanglements. They’re pretty awesome kids in their own right, but together they can seemingly do anything.
Darius and Kenneth, Safety Not Guaranteed
This pairing started off as cynically as any friendship could, with Aubrey Plaza’s Darius meeting (the never-been-better) Mark Duplass’ Kenneth with the sole purpose of getting a decent magazine article about the loon who put the titular time travel ad in a local paper. Almost immediately, though, they seemed to share perfectly compatible idiosyncracies and eventually they realize each of them has something the other desperately needs — Kenneth passion, Darius compassion. Turns out, the point of the movie isn’t whether time travel is real or not, it’s whether people (all damaged) can move beyond the prisons of their past. Some times, most times, we can’t do that alone. It should be noted that Jake Johnson’s magazine editor and Karan Soni’s intern also make for a fairly dynamic duo. (Mostly because Nick Miller can do no wrong.)
Ralph and Vanellope, Wreck-It Ralph
Not since Finding Nemo’s Marlin and Dori has there been such an adorably mismatched animated odd couple as John C. Reilly’s Ralph and Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope Von Schweetz. The actors are so right for their parts that if one believed in destiny, one could believe Reilly and Silverman were born for their roles, and at the very least were just perfectly cast, which plays a big part in the success of believable animated characterizations since all the performances are captured separately. Ralph and Vanellope, despite originating from markedly different worlds (from the spare Donkey Kong-esque to the sugary Mario Kart-like), feel like they should always have been in the same game.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street
Their characters’ names were Schmidt and Jenko, respectively, but let’s be real: the appeal adaptation of the 1980s TV show of the same name is all in the cultivated personae of Hill and Tatum teaming up for a surprisingly hilarious comedy. To say they were perfectly cast as the awkward nerd and the dumb Adonis is an understatement, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the duo’s undercover college exploits. Normally, such direct and obnoxious teases for a sequel leave me cold but this time I was only disappointed it hadn’t yet been made. Though, it’d be a crime if the next one didn’t offer up a little more Ellie Kemper.
Jeff and Pat, Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Jason Segel’s Jeff and Ed Helms’ Pat are my favorite on-screen pairing of the year, thus the header image and saving them for last. They may start as the unexceptional children of sad Susan Sarandon and a dead father, brothers who would never be friends if they met on the street, but they wind up joining forces to become honest-to-goodness-gracious real world heroes by the movie’s end. Their antagonism gives the film its necessary conflict but they manage to resolve it before the actual climax, so when ***CENSORED FOR SPOILERS*** it’s both shocking and filled with more tension than the entirety of most thrillers. In those final moments, I cared more about Jeff and Pat that I care about most of my own family members. It’s probably a good thing none of them read Pajiba.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He didn’t include Django and Dr. Schultz because he, sadly, has not seen Django Unchained yet and is just as upset about that fact as you are.