#2. Jerry (Liar Liar)
In Liar Liar, another contender for "Most '90s Movie Ever," Jim Carrey, a lawyer named Fletcher, gets hit with some magic and has to go a full 24 hours without saying a single lie, all while facing a big case and trying to reconnect with his son and ex-wife. He generally lies all the time, you see, which is why this would be a big deal for him. His ex-wife (Maura Tierney) dates Jerry (Cary Elwes), because she wants her son to have a positive male role model in his life, someone who won't constantly lie and let him down. She plans on moving to Boston with Jerry and her son, but after a series of wacky hijinks, Fletcher learns the error of his ways and vows to be a better father to his son, a better lawyer, and a better man. By the end of the film, it is heavily implied that Fletcher and his ex-wife will get back together and everyone will live happily ever after.
This isn't exactly a new formula. In movies about a slacker or deadbeat male who needs to turn his life around to win back the woman he loves, there's almost always another man in the picture. Someone with whom our hero has to compete. In almost all of those movies, however, the "other man" is usually revealed to be shitty in some way. Bradley Cooper cheats on his fiancee Rachel McAdams in Wedding Crashers. Billy Zane (Kate Winslet's fiance) tries to get Leonardo DiCaprio killed and steals a child in Titanic, and so on. The logic is that good people should be with other good people, and attempting to disrupt someone else's relationship for your own selfish purposes is a bad thing, so we just have to make sure the other man is worse.
It's a pretty tired cliche at this point, but it's also important. That cliche -- highlighting some big, shitty character flaw in the other man -- is what makes us as the audience OK with seeing that other man end up alone and the only thing that makes cuckoldry acceptable to us. You want to make sure the audience roots for Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet to end up together? Include a scene of her current boyfriend kidnapping a child and we'll do it. Happily, and with no thought about the consequences.
Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox
Cameron was going to CG yellow eyes and devil horns, but they were already over budget.
Liar Liar has no such shitty guy scene for Jerry. He doesn't cheat on Maura Tierney's character, he doesn't beat the little kid, and he's not a drug addict or murderer. He's introduced to us as a very kind guy who is ready, willing, and eager to step in and be a supportive father figure for a kid that isn't his, and that's how he stays throughout the whole movie. He's handsome, likeable, capable of holding down a job, and confident in himself enough to not be threatened by Fletcher. His biggest flaw is that he's a little square and can't do this claw thing as well as Jim Carrey. In every other movie, he should get a good girl. (Yes, I'm using words like "get" and "reward" and we're treating the woman like a sex prize. Movies are problematic, I'm very sorry.)
"Oh, no. When they call me a nice guy, they mean that legitimately."
Jerry doesn't win in Liar Liar; he loses. The woman he loves and the child he's prepared to raise -- his future family, basically -- are taken away from him by a bruised, rambling Fletcher, a known liar who has demonstrated his unreliability as a parent a thousand times. The day Maura Tierney decides to stick with Fletcher is the same day Fletcher: 1) gets his car impounded for speeding and a number of unpaid parking tickets; 2) gets thrown in jail; 3) breaks through security in an airport; and 4) steals an airport vehicle, delaying a flight and endangering lives. Cary Elwes lost to that guy. And what's his sin? Nothing. The moral of the movie seems to be that if you grow and change and quit being a terrible human, you get the sex prize.
A "nice guy."
But what about the guy who was already good? The guy who never took the easy way out and believed in doing the right thing because it was the right thing? What lesson is he supposed to pull out of this? "Oh, you love Fletcher again because he doesn't lie? Guess who was already not lying to you this whole time?!" What kind of justice is there for the guy who didn't need a magic spell to know that lying is wrong? Where's his sex prize?!
My hope is that some perfect woman happened to be on the same plane, saw what happened to Cary Elwes, and fell in love with him, and they lived happily ever after, but I'm sure there's probably a deleted scene from Liar Liar where Cary Elwes' plane goes down, because fuck good guys, right?