[Screen It]

(2004) (Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: A small town grocery store clerk doesn't realize her best friend romantically likes her when she wins a date and then falls for a handsome movie star bachelor.
Rosalee Futch (KATE BOSWORTH) is a young woman who lives in a small West Virginia town with her dad Henry (GARY COLE) and works with her best friends, Pete (TOPHER GRACE) and Cathy (GINNIFER GOODWIN), in the local grocery store.

Oblivious to the fact that Pete is interested in being more than just friends with her, Rosalee dreams of what it would be like to meet movie star Tad Hamilton (JOSH DUHAMEL). She surprisingly gets the chance when she enters a "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" contest concocted by his manager, Richard Levy (NATHAN LANE), and agent who's also named Richard Levy (SEAN HAYES).

With Tad being the poster boy for bad movie star behavior, his handlers hope that by pairing him up with some sweet young thing, his public image will change and enable him to land a big, lucrative acting role. Accordingly, they fly Rosalee to Los Angeles where the two have a pleasant date that ends when she doesn't fall prey to his Hollywood charm.

Her down to earth demeanor, however, impresses him enough that he follows her back to her small town where he hopes being with her will change him into a different sort of person. Not surprisingly, everyone there goes gaga over having a movie star in their presence. That is, except for Pete who finally decides he has to let Rosalee know how he really feels about her. From that point on, she must choose which of the two men she's going to date.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
Fame is an amazing cultural phenomenon. Not only does it generate all sorts of perks and problems for the famous, but it also causes otherwise sane people to lose track of their senses when they encounter such people. It's nothing new and it won't likely go away anytime soon, but it's nevertheless fascinating.

Since Hollywood is filled with both the famous and the shell-shocked gawkers, it's not surprising that such matters occasionally make their way into the movies. The latest such example is "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" A romantic comedy about celebrities, their effect on everyday people, and vice-versa, the film has a modicum of potential that sadly isn't fully realized.

In essence, it's really just an updated Molly Ringwald picture. For those too young to remember the "Brat Pack," she was a famous young actress in the '80s who starred in various films about young love, romance and the like. Two such pictures were "Sixteen Candles" and "Pretty in Pink" where Ringwald played a girl so enamored with the rich hunk that she failed to notice the geek/best friend who obviously had his heart set on and then crushed by her.

Here, Kate Bosworth ("Blue Crush," "Wonderland") plays the Ringwald part, while Topher Grace ("Mona Lisa Smile," "Traffic") inhabits the Anthony Michael Hall & Jon Cryer roles and Josh Duhamel ("TV's "Vegas," "All My Children") follows the likes of Michael Schoeffling and Andrew McCarthy. Although I feel a bit weird saying this, writer Victor Levin (TV's "The Larry Sanders Show," "Mad About You") and director Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde") don't hold up their end in emulating what writer/director John Hughes fashioned with those earlier efforts.

While they weren't masterpieces, they did contain various genuine moments that got the look, feel and angst of such a "love triangle" down pat. Although the filmmakers try for the same here - and similarly include some sitcom-like supporting characters - much of the effort instead feels artificial and forced.

It doesn't help that it's also quite predictable, a point that probably won't bother less-discerning viewers, but will likely try the patience of those who prefer more sophisticated or at least realistic offerings. Things simply feel askew from the get-go, with any sort of satire or other clever qualities notably being absent.

After the brief and unimaginative introduction of the main characters, the movie star's handlers -- Nathan Lane ("Teacher's Pet," "Nicholas Nickleby") and Sean Hayes ("Pieces of April," TV's "Will & Grace") in wasted roles and inexplicably bearing the same character name - set up the titular contest. Since Ted "Movie Star" Hamilton obviously needs a change in public or at least industry perception, they choose Bosworth's American Pie girl character as their winner, fly her out to Hollywood and let the chips fall where they may.

That's one of the film's missteps. Since they're trying to manipulate the media's view of their star, you'd think everything would be meticulously choreographed to avoid any unpleasant surprises or developments. Alas, we don't see any of that, thus overlooking a great deal of comedic potential. The two characters occasionally pop up in a few subsequent scenes, but can't do anything for the effort.

All of which places the burden of carrying the film on Bosworth, Duhamel and Grace. While they're all likable and charismatic performers, they simply can't get around the fact that the script is one of the film's weakest links.

The first two get by for a while simply on their radiant and hunky looks respectively, but those alone can only go so far and their character motivations and actions (especially his) got a bit too shaky for my liking. Grace plays the standard-issue, third wheel character with the necessary, frustrated touches, but likewise can't overcome the lackluster and predictable script.

Ginnifer Goodwin ("Mona Lisa Smile," TV's "Ed") and Gary Cole ("I Spy," "Office Space") appear in the remaining supporting character roles and similarly are wasted. Goodwin is reduced to spouting cheap romance novel dialogue, while Cole plays the father character who tries to bring himself up to date on all things Hollywood. Neither running gag works, and I couldn't help myself from waiting for and wanting Cole to do his all-knowing and advice-ridden Mike Brady bit from those "Brady Bunch" movie spoofs.

At least that might have made the film funnier. While there's plenty of romantic longing and the like - albeit nothing of great note - the effort simply isn't terribly amusing, let alone hilarious. I realize it's not designed to be a laugh riot, but so much of the material falls flat when not overlooking the inherent potential.

Although it obviously didn't need to be a brilliant satire on love and all things related to fame, that certainly would have been a better film than what's delivered here. None of which is meant to imply that it's awful. Rather, it's just too flat and has too many missed opportunities to warrant a passing rating. Accordingly, "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" scores a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed January 2, 2004 / Posted January 23, 2004

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