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(2006) (Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A young woman hopes to find love in this spoof of romantic comedies.
Julia Jones (ALYSON HANNIGAN) is a young woman who just want to find the right guy and be loved, and doesn't want to end up like the kooky Old Cat Woman (BEVERLY POLCYN) who lives across the way and spends all of the time with her felines. Yet, Julia's large size and lack of refinement means she'll probably forever work as a waitress alongside her Japanese sister Betty (MARIE MATIKO) at the family restaurant run by her black dad Frank (EDDIE GRIFFIN) and Indian mother Linda (MEERA SIMHAN).

Frank thinks she should end up with the greasy Nicky (JUDAH FRIEDLANDER), but Julia would rather get hitched to the dreamy Brit, Grant (ADAM CAMPBELL), who she briefly sees in the restaurant. With nothing left to lose, Julia seeks the help of date doctor Hitch (TONY COX) who, after initially being reluctant, decides to give her a complete makeover. When he's done, Julia is suddenly fetchingly svelte and she quickly wins over Grant on a dating reality TV show.

Soon, the two are going to get married, so after he meets her parents and he takes her family to meet his -- Bernie (FRED WILLARD) and Roz Funkyerdoder (JENNIFER COOLIDGE) -- they're off to see wedding planner Jell-O (VALERY ORTIZ). Grant also anxiously awaits the arrival of his best mate, but "he" turns out to be a she in the form of the scantly clad beauty Andy (SOPHIE MONK) who he used to date.

From that point on, and as various gags from various romantic comedies and other Hollywood films pile up, Julia must decide how to proceed and whether she's really found her true love.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
There's nothing like a really good spoof movie to get me laughing. It doesn't really make any difference what's being parodied or how goofy or silly the gags might be. If the cast and crew manage to hit the notes just right, I'm in movie comedy heaven, as occurred with the first "Airplane!" and "Naked Gun" movies. That said, when the material is hit or miss, mediocre or just plain bad, the opposite is true. Regular comedy misfires are bad enough, it's even worse when it involves a spoof flick.

Such is the case with "Date Movie," a spoof of popular romantic comedies. If there ever was a genre ripe for the picking, that's certainly the one, what with its heavy reliance on formulaic plots and characters. And considering that the film's writers previously penned "Spy Hard" and contributed to "Scary Movie" -- too passable but not great parodies -- things would seem to be in order for the potential of some good laughs.

Alas, they're few and far between. Like most spoof films that followed those brilliant trendsetters, this one makes the cardinal mistake of focusing on the specifics and not the generalities. By that, I mean that while "Airplane" parodied the airliner disaster flicks and "Naked Gun" did the cop pics, they -- for the most part -- simply played with and off the usual conventions rather than spoofing exact scenes from certain films. The focus now seems to be enabling the viewer to say, "Hey, that's from movie A" and "That's the scene in movie B" rather than in creating a movie that could stand on its own without the specific cinematic references.

Now, I don't really have a problem with the scene parodies, but that's only if they're brilliantly designed and executed. Writer/director Aaron Seltzer and co-writer Jason Friedberg pick all of the usual suspects -- moments and material from "Bridget Jones' Diary," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Hitch" and many more such films -- as their targets, but the material just isn't that funny. They do manage to put a slight spin on the fake orgasm scene from "When Harry Met Sally" and a gender twist on the Rodeo Drive moment in "Pretty Woman," but all of that's fleetingly amusing at best, and clearly not as laugh-out-loud funny as it should be.

A lot of the material focuses on scenes from "Meet the Parents" and its "Meet the Fockers" sequel, but that's similarly flat (unless you enjoy scenes featuring a cat suffering some major intestinal distress and later getting it on with a mummified corpse).

Beyond the targeted genre, there are also parodies of "The Lord of the Rings," "Star Wars," "Napoleon Dynamite," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," the "Kill Bill" films, TV's "The Bachelor" and "Extreme Makeover," the Girls Gone Wild and Paris Hilton hamburger carwash commercials, the urban "krumping" dance form and much, much more. Not surprisingly, said material also mostly falls flat, including a bit featuring Michael Jackson trying to lure a little boy to him via a stuffed toy in some back alley.

The problem with scenes like that and others in the film is that they already seem dated by the time the movie hits theaters and especially home video months later (viewing years down the road only exacerbates that effect). At the same time, more current films -- such as "Brokeback Mountain" (a picture really ready for the parodies) -- came out too late for inclusion here, thus making their absence seem even that stronger (although there is a tacked on "King Kong" parody at the end).

The biggest issue, however, is that like most offerings of its ilk, this spoof falls prey to the very thing it's parodying, and that's genre formula. As mentioned earlier, romantic comedies are certainly one of the guiltier movie forms in dealing out predictable story arcs. Yet, many spoofs do the same thing. They start with a hodgepodge of jokes, mostly on target but many off, all surrounding a storyline that starts off meagerly but eventually takes over the production. As is usually the case, that sucks dry a lot of the parody elements here, leaving just a bland rom-com that's neither funny nor romantic.

It doesn't help that the best the filmmakers could do for leads was Alyson Hannigan from the "American Pie" films (her character was the flute girl with the tag line that usually started something along the lines of "And then one day at band camp...") and a movie newbie by the name of Adam Campbell. Although they're put through the motions, they simply don't have the comedic chops to carry a parody, not that they had much of a chance with such a weak script.

Fred Willard and especially Jennifer Coolidge do impersonations of Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand from the "Fockers" film, but a little of that goes a long way, which also holds true for Tony Cox playing a smaller and less friendly version of Will Smith's Hitch character.

While I suppose younger (under 18) and/or less discerning viewers might find the film, and its jokes and gags funny, it only made me long for its far more brilliant, creative and downright hilarious predecessors. Liking going on a date with someone who thinks they're funny but clearly aren't, "Date Movie" might just be the longest 80-some minute cinematic relationship of your life. It rates as a 1 out of 10.

Reviewed February 17, 2006 / Posted February 17, 2006

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