- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

“Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” wouldn’t miss a beat if Doris Day or another squeaky clean starlet of yore served as its leading lady.

The new film from Robert Luketic, the director of 2001’s “Legally Blonde,” strikes a sweet, anachronistic chord with its warped love triangle. Merely ignoring today’s more lurid hip-hop anthems and hipster dialogue gives it a life of its own.

The narrative may buckle under even a cursory glance, but its cast rallies on the story’s behalf.

“Date” opens with hyper-handsome actor Tad Hamilton (“Las Vegas’” Josh Duhamel) bemoaning a career hiccup his two handlers blame on his party boy image.

Today, a few boozy rumors would only boost an actor’s cache, but in the film’s throwback context, the point is moot.

Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes, playing the dueling sycophants both named Richard Levy, dream up a contest where Tad will take one of his fans on the platonic date of her dreams. Chipper Piggly Wiggly clerk Rosalee (Kate Bosworth) wins the contest, much to the dismay of her pal Pete (Topher Grace).

“Guard your carnal pleasures,” he warns her before the date, his crush on her cresting at the worst possible time. Now, what other teen flick would dare such a cautionary note? Mr. Grace should shed a few of his sitcom tics, but he impresses nonetheless with his modern twist on “Pretty in Pink’s” love-struck Duckie.

Rosalee’s best girlfriend Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) proffers more sexually aggressive tips, but even her comments twinkle with innocence.

The big date turns out be a bore, but Rosalee’s decency and values hit Tad right in his iced-over heart. He impulsively moves to her West Virginia hometown, buys a farm and swears all he wants is for a little of her goodness to rub off on him.

Right. A few makeout sessions later, the two start to have feelings for one another even if buying his side of the romance would take Trump-sized coffers.

Back at the Piggly Wiggly, Pete isn’t taking all of this very well. He finally comes out of his nebbish shell to fight for Rosalee, even if the Vegas oddsmakers wouldn’t touch his chances versus a movie star god.

Every time “Tad Hamilton” feels like it’s veering toward the romantic boilerplate abyss, something yanks the wheel and moves it off the shoulder.

Sometimes it’s Mr. Grace’s way with an earnest monologue. Or, it might be a winning turn by another support player, be it Miss Goodwin’s eternally grinning supporter or Gary Cole as Rosalee’s Hollywood-obsessed dad.

Seeing Mr. Cole wearing a “Project Greenlight” shirt in one scene highlights just how smart “Tad Hamilton” can be. That T-shirt supports the character’s obsession with film and teases HBO fans who watched Mr. Cole get passed over by the show’s creative team for its second feature, “The Battle of Shaker Heights.”

Mr. Duhamel’s Tad keeps surprising us, too, even though on paper his movie star act should wear chiffon thin. He’s an unabashed parody but not a predictably mean-spirited one.

Miss Bosworth’s Rosalee radiates red-cheeked wholesomeness as she swoons for her movie star idol.

And what young gal wouldn’t, at least temporarily?

“Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” will have a similar effect on audiences, perhaps blinding them to the film’s flaws.


WHAT: “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!”

RATING: PG:13 (Sexual situations, drug references and coarse language)

CREDITS: Directed by Robert Luketic. Written by Victor Levin.

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

WEB SITE: www.winadatewithtadhamilton.com


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