Like anyone facing the prospect of something that's obviously going to be boring and/or unpleasant, movie reviewers occasionally deploy any number of tricks to get through what we know will be mediocre to awful releases.
When it comes to romantic comedies starring B-list performers released in the off-season (meaning the dumping grounds of January and February), another reviewer and I make a game of trying to guess how many montages will be present.
Any rom-com worth its weight in formula will have a number of them. How sad then that "The Wedding Date" botches even that longstanding tradition. True, this flat, forced, off-kilter and horrendously edited romantic comedy tries to do the montage thing (where a typical genre song plays over scenes of the couple getting to know each other, spending time together and lamenting over their recent breakup, etc.). Yet, those efforts are half-baked, malformed or try to unfold in the middle of decidedly non-montage ready scenes.
All of which only makes the film that much more frustrating. Adapted from Elizabeth Young's novel "Asking For Trouble" by novice screenwriter Dana Fox, the effort feels like an unwieldy hodgepodge of plotlines, story elements and characters from other romantic comedies.
While watching it unfold (or unravel like a hand-me-down wedding dress), one is apt to be reminded of "Pretty Woman" (the prostitute part with the genders flipped), "Picture Perfect" (the woman with the faked significant other), "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (the American showing up for the wedding across the pond where there's the usual assortment of wacky British supporting characters), along with any number of other better and worse genre entries.
Most reviewers have reluctantly accepted that such films will be formulaic and predictable, but this picture takes that to excruciating new lows. Gee, do you think that Debra Messing's harried and desperate character will end up falling for the smooth and calm gigolo played by Dermot Mulroney? Or that they'll sleep together, have a spat that temporarily breaks them up, only to have them get together at the end?
Fox and director Clare Kilner ("How to Deal") try to shake things up just a tad with some surprise revelations in the third act, but even those are mishandled as the unsavory bits are essentially swept under the rug to ensure the happy ending. The biggest problem, however, is that we simply don't care, and that goes beyond the formula and predictable nature.
While Messing ("Hollywood Ending," TV's "Will & Grace") is a likable, charismatic and gifted performer (with the right material), she just didn't do it for me here with this character and script. Neuroses and other eccentric behavior and slight slapstick material are fine if they accompany an otherwise rounded character. But when it leads or at least dominates that persona, it becomes more grating than funny -- which is exactly the case with Sarah Parish ("Parting Shots") playing the bawdy and boisterous cousin.
It doesn't help that Mulroney ("About Schmidt," "My Best Friend's Wedding") is playing arguably one of the blandest leading men one could imagine. Flat and unconvincing in the role, the actor brings nothing to the part and sucks dry what little energy the film manages to generate. It certainly doesn't help matters that the chemistry between him and Messing is forced when otherwise next to non-existent.
Holland Taylor ("The Truman Show," "Romancing the Stone") and Amy Adams ("Catch Me If You Can," "Drop Dead Gorgeous") play the obnoxious mother/daughter duo and do nothing to the film other than serve as familial antagonists and complications, Jeremy Sheffield ("Anna Karenina") plays the lout, while Jack Davenport ("Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") plays another "Four Weddings" type character and Peter Egan ("Bean," "Chariots of Fire") embodies the obligatory, advice-dispensing father figure.
Clocking in at around ninety minutes, the film feels like it's been chopped to bits by editor Mary Finlay ("About Adam," "Grand Theft Parsons") or some other "high ranking" official. Momentum is shaky at best and scene transitions are awful.
Yet, it's hard to tell if footage was excised from a longer version of the film or if this was just a hack job. I think it's a combination of both, but at least if the former is true, viewers have been spared additional minutes of romantic comedy monotony and drudgery.
If you're a sucker for these sorts of films, you may be able to squeeze something worthwhile out of this limp and lame offering, but I can't imagine what that might be. Mostly jilted at the cinematic altar by savvy viewers, "The Wedding Date" now arrives on video where it will likely disappear into a sea of similarly bland films.