Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, some drug references and language
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel, Topher Grace, Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes, Gary Cole, Kathryn Hahn
Director: Robert Luketic
Screenplay: Victor Levin
It's been three years since Robert Luketic's successful first film, Legally Blonde, and for about an hour of his latest film, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, he shows he hasn't missed a beat in keeping a farcical romantic comedy lively and upbeat. Where Luketic falters is in closing the deal, ditching the colorful, eccentric tempo comedy in favor of more dilute, formulaic romance elements, and the fun, as well as much of the interest, is pretty much gone. The change in tone comes so quickly, it feels as if the they were working with an unfinished script, futilely trying to finish it up with the proper ending once the preconceived gags ran out, and resorting to tired chases and typical girl-next-door haggling over whether to choose the path of the successful, handsome bachelor vs. the sweet local boy. Although it's obvious where things will end up, the getting there feels rushed and completely perfunctory, and sadly, a pretty good movie evaporates into vaporous fare.
Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush) is Rosalee, living in a quaint life in small-town West Virginia as a cashier at the local Piggly Wiggly. Like many girls her age, she loves romantic comedies, especially ones starring hot heartthrob Tad Hamilton (Duhamel), a studly actor who is every young woman's dream man, although in reality, he's a bit of a self-absorbed womanizer, far different in his reckless private life than the image he shows onscreen. Her friend Cathy (Goodwin, Mona Lisa Smile) shows her an online contest where the winner is entered into a drawing to have a real-life date with Tad, and as luck would have it, Rosalee is the lucky winner. Tad is cautioned by his meddling agents to keep good appearances, to avoid the bad press that might prevent him from landing the role of a lifetime, to which he begrudgingly agrees to. The date itself impresses both parties, Tad being the consummate gentleman, while Rosalee is the refreshing, wholesome change-of-pace he has sorely lacked in his world of bimbos and slimy Hollywood types. Although there appears to be a mutual attraction, the date ends, with Rosalee back in her small-town existence. Her lifelong friend, Pete (Grace, "That 70s Show"), has had a long-enduring crush on her, and is about to make her the proposal of his lifetime, but his notions are quickly jettisoned by Tad's unexpected arrival, who wishes to continue seeing her.
I like Luketic's sense of style, mixing catchy music with forward moving plotting, and good introductions to the characters. I like the actors, with Kate Bosworth playing Rosalee as sweet without seeming too corny, Topher Grace adding likeable humor to what is usually a drab character, and I especially thought Duhamel's character to be a nice change of pace for a romantic comedy, where other films of a similar ilk would have made him an obvious heel to everyone but the main female protagonist. It's sort of a Broadcast News for today's teenage audiences too young to remember it.
Where Tad Hamilton fails is in not adequately providing a real reason why Rosalee would ever choose between Pete and Tad, and in fact, there never was a reason for her to, the decision presenting itself only after a ham-handed confession that would never be made in the situation it was made in, and certainly not in the manner in which it is delivered. What follows is purely hackneyed artifice posing as heartfelt romance, and only the final scene, perhaps the only genuinely good one of the final half hour, has any inspired quality to it.
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is like chewing a stick of gum. It starts off with enjoyably good flavor, eventually fading into a little more than a familiar, repetitive rhythm without much returns.
©2004 Vince Leo