Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
There must have been some intense discussion over at Dreamworks about whether or not to put that exclamation point at the end of the title. Would people get that this was a promotion, and not a serious statement? Would the target audience - 12- to 15-year-old girls - know that 'Tad Hamilton' was not in fact a real person but a character in a movie? Well, you can imagine all the backing and forthing before the decision was made to keep it in just for safety's sake; no one was going to accuse Dreamworks of misleading its audience.
On the other hand, no one is likely to congratulate Dreamworks on having made a good movie. "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" is a farce that insists on taking itself seriously. Like many other recent comedies - "Legally Blonde" comes to mind, as do "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Anger Management" and "Down With Love" - it pretends that the unbelievable will be funny if it's treated like real life. But the unbelievable is, umm, not actually real. These films are farces, and the definition of farce is 'a broadly satirical comedy with an improbable plot.' Yet all of them insist on being taken seriously enough to be treated as real. And - none of them are funny. They are in fact embarrassingly bad, seat-squirmingly bad, eye-rollingly bad.
"Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" trots out every possible cliché and flaunts it before us as though unveiling a great new treat. Kate Bosworth is Rosalee Futch, checker at the Piggly Wiggly in Fraziers Bottom, W. Va., where she and her best friend Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) have a tabloid-style crush on Hollywood hottie Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). Rosalee enters a contest to win the date - a promotion dreamed up by Tad's managers (wasted performances by Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes) to pump up his flagging career. She wins, of course, is flown to Hollywood where she and Tad actually have a good time on the date, Tad the cad is reformed, flies to Fraziers Bottom to renew his moral structure, and even buys himself a farm.
But wait - what about Rosalee's friend Pete (Topher Grace), the store manager who's had a crush on her for lo these many years but hasn't had the courage to come out and tell her how he feels? His words to her as she leaves for Hollywood are "Guard your carnal virtue." Is this a guy you'd want to spend your life with? But somehow the film takes him seriously enough to make him the second lead, which should give you a clue.
The more important question is why no one making films today understands that farce is a genre all its own, that it has its rules, and that you break them at your peril, which in this case means losing the wit. If you're going to make a screwball comedy, don't pretend that it's a family drama. Go back and look at Howard Hawks's films and learn from them.