ARTS

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January 23, 2004

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! mildly entertaining, but no great prize

When you go to see a movie like this, you have to realize fully what you are getting yourself into. From the previews, the website, and the advertising campaign, you know that it is definitely a chick flick. You also know that it is going to be aimed at a younger audience (think 14 to 17-year-olds). With that said, you cannot go see this movie and expect it to be profound—it is a given that the plot will be somewhat predictable and that clichés will pervade the script.

However, this does not mean that such a movie has to be bad or that it cannot be enjoyable for an older audience. Movies like Clueless pass the time test and even the gender test. They can be—and are—witty and enjoyable, yet decidedly still teeny bopper movies. Having established that, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! is neither that witty nor that enjoyable. Although I enjoyed myself, it is largely because I'm very laid-back and easy to please; I'm not sure that many others would have been fine with spending $9 on the movie ticket.

There is a scene near the end of the movie that can serve as a metaphor for the entire film. Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel), the superstar heartthrob namesake of the movie, is at a local bar in the town of Frazier's Bottom, West Virginia. He is hanging out with Rosalee (Kate Bosworth), the adorable country bumpkin with whom he has fallen in love after going on a date with her as a ploy to improve his bad-boy Hollywood image. Peter (Topher Grace), the sweet boy next door who has been madly in love with Rosalee for years (but who never had the courage to profess his love for her), is with them—and has had enough of Tad. He looks extremely depressed and distressed as he watches his sweetie being courted by Tad under the guise of wanting "her goodness to rub off on him" (or as Peter likes to point out, most likely to have "her ass rub off on him").

Anyway, in the course of the night, Tad goes to the men's room, and he's on the john—pants down and all—when Peter bursts into his stall to have a talk. The speech that Peter delivers is necessary: no self-respecting chick-flick connoisseur would deny that the underdog's "I love her, you better not hurt her speech" is key. However, the awkwardness of Peter standing up and delivering this bittersweet monologue (actually one of the better segments of the script—complete with a really sentimental part about her six smiles) with Tad's pants literally down is just too much. This scene emphasizes the disjointed nature of the plot, dialogue, and characters.

Take the character of Tad Hamilton, for example. He starts out in the movie as a major Hollywood jerk. He's self-absorbed, rude, and obnoxious—but I loved him like that. His pretensions were so funny. There is a scene at the beginning of the movie when he and Rosalee are on the infamous first date, the result of the publicity-boosting contest his agent and manager have organized. He says something to her that is particularly funny and completely in character. He asks, "Is this the best night of your life?" She replies, "Yes," and he responds, "I thought so." All the while, he says it with this fake smile that has been perfected as a result of being constantly in the limelight.

That type of character is interesting! I wanted more of that. I was excited that he did not automatically try to woo her, and I was curious as to how the rest of the plot would unfold. After the really awkward first date and his apparent lack of interest, would he wind up pursuing her? However, his character is so disjointed overall because there is no development in his attitude. He wakes up a few days after the date, and he has lost his personality—or at least has changed it drastically. His time in Rosalee's hometown of Frazier's Bottom only shows how much his personality is different from the original one that was portrayed.

Supporting cast is equally uneven. The two Richard Levys—Tad's agent (Nathan Lane) and manager (Will and Grace's Sean Hayes)—are outrageous. They are ridiculously funny, especially Sean Hayes. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have Kate and Peter's annoying friend Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin). You know who she is; she's the girl in the commercials who shrieks and throws a bag of cheese doodles around the room when Tad shows up in the Frazier's Bottom grocery store. She is not only annoying, but just plain intolerable to listen to during the majority of the movie. In that same grocery store scene, she strikes a sexy pose, and she says something to Tad along the lines of, "I will take you out and do things that you have only dreamed of." Okay, so she's kind of joking, but still: first, Rosalee is standing right there, and second, this guy is a Hollywood hunk—he's probably had crazier stuff done to him than she could ever imagine. Tad is gracious in his response; he just politely smiles and nods. But I'm sure the old, obnoxious Tad Hamilton would have had something more acerbic (and entertaining) to say.

All in all, the best parts of the movie are seeing Rosalee being her super-cute self and seeing Tad's rippling body—which, believe me, you get plenty of. His hotness is enough to satisfy anyone who is in need for some good eye candy. The cheesy parts involving Peter's love for Rosalee are also particularly winsome and sugary-sweet. Of course, our underdog wins in the end—but isn't that what chick flick fans want anyway?