There is just something about WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON thats completely adorable. Its not that it strays far from the usual LA meets the real world stereotypes, because it doesnt. Nor does it posit that the sex symbols of the silver screen have an inner life much deeper than their Jacuzzis. No, the thing about this flick is that it is completely unpretentious in the way it tells its story of true love and the obstacles, many of them flashy, that can get in the way of it.
The tale is the stuff of an adolescent girls dreams. Our heroine, Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth) wins the eponymous date with her dream guy, ripped and cut superstar Tad Hamilton (ripped and cut Josh Duhamel). What she doesnt know is that our guy Tad, though projecting a squeaky clean image that Rosalee and her gal pal Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) swallow hook, line, and sinker, is a born carouser and this is playing havoc with his image and his prospects for landing the lead in a major film. The date has been plotted as a fundraiser to boost his image by his agent and manager (Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes in high camp mode), both named Richard Levy. What no one saw coming was that the date would change Tads life. An evening with the fresh-faced and disingenuous checkout gal from Fraziers Bottom, West Virginias only Piggly Wiggly sends him into what in the shallow land of tinsel passes for serious introspection. Before you can say follow your bliss, Tads followed Rosalee to West Virginia with plans to get his priorities straight by living a less commercial existence.
That, oddly enough, is not the romance angle of the story, though Duhamel does fulfill the requirements in the looks department. Hes even got the rudimentary sort of charm that guys who coast on their looks have. When he signs an autograph without missing a beat in the conversation he’s having with Rosalee, or looking at the person thrusting the paper and pen at him, much less the paper and pen itself, he carries it off with the perfect take on the world-weariness of Hollywood’s flavor of the month. No, the real love story here is Rosalees lifelong pal, Pete (Topher Grace), the manager at Piggly Wiggly. Hes the guy who has sat through every sappy Tad Hamilton movie ever made because when a mans in love like he is with Rosalee, no sacrifice is too great if it makes the object of his affection happy. Rosalee, of course, hasnt noticed how Pete feels, The fact that Pete hasnt told her, much less made a move on her beyond telling her loudly and often to guard her carnal treasure from Tad, only makes the matter worse.
The best thing is this film is Grace. His character isnt much different from the one he plays on That 70s Show, but few do the self-conscious low self-esteem thing better. He delivers the dialogue with just that right mix of sarcasm and self-loathing. But he also manages to add some of the genuine heart, as in breaking, of a guy hopelessly in love watching the love of his life dance away with the man of her dreams. The genuine poignancy combines with exquisite comic timing. Less satisfying is Bosworth. Sure, shes lovely and she nails the down home wholesome attitude that the part requires. Shes also got a fair feel for comedy, whether tossing her cookies on her first fateful date with Tad or watching with requisite jaw-dropping disbelief the panoply of life in La La Land replete with dogs in car seats and paparazzi. But you never really get a sense that beneath that corn-fed exterior theres much going on there. As for Hayes and Lane, if youve seen Will and Grace or The Producers, youve seen their schtick.
In the standard issue films aimed at the teen demographic, WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON would have been about the wild and wacky hi-jinks that our couple get up to in the course of the date. Stale slapstick, binge drinking and what the MPAA designates as crude sexual humor, barely missing a beat as Tad arrives in West Virginia to sweep Rosalee off her feet. Instead, screenwriter Victor Levin of televisions Larry Sanders Show and Mad About You has whipped up something different, a flick thats genuinely funny, and just a bit thoughtful. The humor is rarely broad, going instead for a gentleness rarely seen in films these days and actually respecting the characters. Oh, dont get me wrong, its not much deeper than Tads Jacuzzi, but it works and thats all that matters.