Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (January 21/04)
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is the last film one would expect to defy expectations, especially when you consider it's just the sort of romantic comedy that Hollywood seems to churn out on an exceedingly frequent basis. But after a somewhat depressing start that's rife with sitcom level cliches, the film actually becomes surprisingly engaging - thanks, in part, to better-than-expected writing and charismatic performances.
The film stars Kate Bosworth as Rosalee, a kind and well-meaning checkout girl who enters a contest to win a date with Tad Hamilton (played by Josh Duhamel). Tad's image isn't exactly squeaky clean, which just might cost him a part in a high-profile picture - leading his agent and manager (Sean Hayes and Nathan Lane) to concoct this publicity stunt. Naturally, Rosalee wins the contest and flies off to Los Angeles to meet Tad. This worries Pete (Topher Grace), who's long been in love with Rosalee - but never actually summoned the courage to tell her.
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! marks director Robert Luketic's first film since Legally Blonde (he wisely sat out the mediocre sequel), and the movie is just as bright and bubbly as that Reese Witherspoon comedy. Though he's perhaps a little too fond of insipid pop songs, Luketic admittedly does a nice job of keeping the pace brisk - even through the almost interminable opening half hour, which is peppered with instances of awkwardly placed sentimentality (that aspect of the film never entirely improves, actually).
But one expects that sort of thing out of a movie like this, especially one in which the ending is so blatantly obvious. And that's one of the core problems with the movie. Screenwriter Victor Levin asks us to root for Pete to overcome the various obstacles in his way and live happily ever after with Rosalee. But that doesn't really work because Tad is never revealed to be a jerk, which is a primary requirement for silly romantic comedies like this. Consequently, it's hard not to root for Tad and Rosalee to make it - mostly because Bosworth and Duhamel have genuine chemistry with each other (it doesn't hurt that the latter gives a performance that's dripping with charm). Not helping matters is the fact that Topher Grace's Pete spends the majority of the film's running time acting like an idiot (ie he tries to force Rosalee to work late so she won't be able to go out with Tad, etc), which makes it almost impossible to care whether or not he ends up with Rosalee.
Still, the movie is undeniably quite entertaining - something that can't be said for a lot of film of this ilk (last week's Chasing Liberty, for example). And Duhamel's star-making performance is ingratiating enough to keep us interested even through the film's occasional over-reliance on formula.