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If movies were air, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton would qualify as helium. Not that one expects substance from romantic comedies, but Robert Luketic’s film is so slight and empty, it borders on insignificant.
Which is a pity, really, because the cast gives it the real heave-ho. Unfortunately, by the time the movie reaches its sickly-sweet, “we saw it coming all along” conclusion, the whole audience is tempted to forgo the ho and just simply heave.
Apple-cheeked Kate Bosworth plays Rosalee Futch, a check-out gal at a West Virginia Piggly Wiggly. She’s an avid fan of screen idol Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel), and, as the title implies, wins a night out with the Hollywood hunk as part of a contest dreamed up by Tad’s manager and agent (Sean Hayes and Nathan Lane) to help the star shake his bad-boy image.
This makes her boss and childhood friend Pete (Topher Grace) so green with envy, you can’t distinguish him from the cucumber display. It’s not because Pete has a thing for Tad (that, however, would have been an interesting twist), but rather because he carries Ye Olde Unrequited Torch for Rosalee, who is oblivious to his flame of romantic yearning. “Do me a favor, ” he tells Rosalee as she boards a plane bound for L.A. “Guard your carnal treasure! ”
Tad and Rosalee have their date. Rosalee doesn’t fling her carnal treasures at Tad. This intrigues him and — boom — he falls in love. Next thing you know, millionaire Tad has moved to Rosalee’s hometown, bought a farm, and is seriously romancing the girl.
“I want some of your goodness to rub off on me, ” he tells her, his eyes all misty, his smile ultra-bright.
Tad’s arrival sets up a rivalry between Pete and the movie star, who feels he can’t compete. The movie’s big study-in-contrast scene — a shirtless one involving the two young men — has already been used shamelessly in the coming attractions. You gotta hand it to the marketing guys — they know who’s buttering the bread of this film: teenage girls and gay men. But I’d hasten to say that the queer eyes will be disappointed that there aren’t more scenes involving Duhamel’s sculpted torso. Which leaves the teenage girls, who will likely find their hearts melting in to great, icky gobs at the movie’s so-called pure (and ultimately dishonest) look at love while their parents quietly argue over whose turn it is to drive the carpool.
Movies have been feeding us this wholesome trip for years and sometimes it works — though it usually works a lot better in movies made in the nineteen-forties, in black and white, starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. That’s the classic status touch for you.
So here’s a nifty suggestion. Why not wait fifty years before seeing Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. By that point, it will have made AFI list of the Best 2,000 Half-Hearted & Predictable Romantic Comedies of All Time.
Topher Grace will one day have his chance to make good for Tad. But what of his Demi Moore-obsessed, That ’70s Show costar Ashton Kutcher?
Funny you should ask.
Kutcher’s The Butterfly Effect was also released last weekend and, despite the fact that it requires us to believe that a person can tap his memories to manipulate time, and thereby changing the outcome of tragic events, it’s actually better than Grace’s insignificant little wisp of a movie.
And here’s why. Co-writers and directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber try to do something creative and moody and ominous. Unfortunately, they don’t try hard enough, and their movie falls to pieces.
The setup for the eventual memory shifts seems to take forever. Evan Treborn (played, in addition to Kutcher, by two younger actors) goes through more than his fair share of childhood trauma with his small cluster of friends — including child molestation, watching his dog burned alive by a bully, and witnessing a teenage prank go morbidly awry. Trouble is, Evan blacks out these episodes, a condition passed on to him by his psychotic, institutionalized father, who, by the way, is brutally killed by prison guards before seven-year-old Evan’s eyes.
The 20-year-old Evan discovers that, if he stares hard enough at pages from the journals he’s been keeping as a child, the words go all jiggly-wiggly and he’s transported back to the time he’s attempting to remember. Once there, he uses what he knows now to change things back then. Unfortunately, after he returns to the present, everything else has changed as well, usually for the worse.
So Evan keeps doing his little memory trick, hoping to, among other things, save himself from a life in prison, save his mother from lung cancer, and most importantly, save the girl of his dreams, Kayleigh (Amy Smart) from a life of prostitution, a life as a sorority girl, a life as a waitress who makes very little in tips, or a life as the blissfully happy girlfriend of his best friend. Okay, that last one seems okay, but Evan, the self-serving bastard, changes it anyway.
The big question: Is Kutcher able to handle a dramatic film?
The big answer: Oh, please. He acts with his stubble.
“I can play out the entire movie of our lives in my mind in one second, ” Kayleigh says to Evan at one point.
How lucky for her. We, unfortunately, have to sit through 6,780 seconds of theirs.