Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!


Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews Laura Clifford 
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews Robin Clifford 

Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth, "Blue Crush") and her best friend Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin, "Mona Lisa Smile") both work as cashiers at a West Virginia Piggly Wiggly for their buddy Pete (Topher Grace, "Traffic," TV's "That 70's Show") who is shoring up the nerve to declare his long time love for Rosalee.  Pete's timing couldn't be worse, though, as Rosalee, smitten with a Hollywood star, has entered a contest to "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!"

Laura:
Screenwriter Victor Levin (HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show") trots out every romantic comedy cliche in "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!," but amusing dialogue, great sight gags and a charismatic cast make the film work.  "Tad Hamilton" is a charming bit of fluff for all ages that should land Topher Grace leading man status.

Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel, TV's "Las Vegas" and "All My Children") is a Hollywood bad boy just recently featured on a tabloid cover speeding, drinking, smoking and groping all at the same time. Manager Richard Levy (Sean Hayes, "Pieces of April") and agent Richard Levy (Nathan Lane, currently being heard in "Teacher's Pet") come up with the contest idea to temper Tad's image and snag him a role in a big upcoming film.  Of course, Rosalee wins the contest, and her sweet, fresh beauty touches something in Tad.  Deciding that he wants some of Rosalee's goodness to 'rub off on him,' Tad descends on the small town of Fraziers Bottom and unknowingly trumps every move Pete makes against him.  When the Levys follow, waving the role he sought before him, Tad asks Rosalee to go back with him to Hollywood.

There's absolutely no question who Rosalee will end up with and we've seen all these characters before - the Hollywood star in a small town ("In and Out," "Bye, Bye Birdie") who needs lines written for him, the local (Rosalee's dad Henry) who goes Hollywood in return ("Doc Hollywood"), the guy too shy to vocalize his love and the girl who fails to recognize it, the person who raises the underdog's stock (Fraziers Bottom bartender Angelica) by yearning for him and the completely selfless, supportive best friend.  After a bang-up beginning, where Pete endures just the type of movie we're watching by making wry asides, and one immediate logical misstep (Rosalee and Cathy work in a grocery store, yet never seem to learn the contents of a tabloid story on their idol?), the story coasts along with occasional high points scattered throughout. Pete's admonition to 'Guard your carnal treasure!' as Rosalee departs for LA may become one of the pop cultural quotes of the year.

Topher Grace is fabulous as hometown boy Pete, his dry humor balancing out Bosworth's squeaky clean sweetness.  He's like a Heartland Cary Grant who can reach beneath his wry veneer for emotional depth when needed.  Bosworth is believable as the type of girl who just might catch the attention of a jaded star with her forthright honesty and homey reactions (Yikesabee!). When Pete describes Rosalee's 'six different smiles' to Tad, we know what he's talking about because Bosworth has displayed them all.  Duhamel is saddled with the least believable role, that of a Ben Affleck-like Hollywood bad boy who nonetheless acts with integrity, but he's appealing enough and physically well cast as a contrast to Grace.  Goodwin gives another appealing supporting performance (albeit in a less well defined character than in "Mona Lisa Smile"), as the enthusiastic Cathy, but Hahn brings more to the table with less screen time as Pete's unlikely admirer.  Gary Cole ("The Brady Bunch Movie") is amusing taking the air out of Pete's tires with a Goliath kicking David analogy. Hayes and Lane mostly buzz around the sidelines, although Lane does deliver a timely Ashton Kutcher joke with flair.

Director Robert Luketic ("Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde") continues with his bright but basic direction.  A montage showcasing a newcomer's view of L.A. (a dog in a car seat juxtaposed against kids on a leash, lemonade being prepared in a cocktail shaker at a $9 stand) is a light and affectionate ribbing of Hollywood, just as Henry Futch's newfound fascination with Variety and chocolate martinis tweaks small town America.  Missy Steward's ("Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde") production design is once again obviously high contrast, with Tad's home all icy modern design while the Futch's home boasts a front porch swing.

"Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" works as a date movie and a family film.  Its conclusion may be foregone, but it's satisfying nonetheless.

B-

Robin:
On-screen “boy next door” and off-screen Hollywood bad-boy Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) is between picture deals and is the target of the scandal tabloids. His agent, Richard Levy (Nathan Lane), and his manager, also named Richard Levy (Sean Hayes), propose a way for the star to clean up his act and get some good press – a charity raffle with Tad as first prize! This sets thousands of women, including West Virginia-born Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth), into a frenzy to put up the $100 entry fee to “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!”

Tad may be squeaky clean on the big screen but when tabloid paparazzi catches him on film speeding in his car, drinking, smoking and messing around with a starlet (all at the same time), the producer of his next potential movie decides “to take a breath” and hold off on casting Tad. Hamilton’s carousing is bad publicity and the producer has second thoughts about hiring the randy star. When the two Richards come up with the scheme to put Tad on the auction block for Save the Children, he reluctantly agrees – he doesn’t really have a choice.

Rosalee, like women all across the country, scrimps to come up with the entry fee (with the help of her friend Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin)) and is pleasantly stunned to learn that she is the winner. With first-class airline ticket in hand she journeys across the USA to Hollywood and is ensconced in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills. Next thing she knows, the handsome Tad is at her door and he takes her to dinner in a limo – but not before her nerves get the best of her and she throws up in the back of the car. Despite the ignominious beginning, the date is a success and Rosie returns home on a cloud of happiness.

Tad is taken with the Rosalee’s sweet wholesomeness and, despite the two Richards, heads to Frasier’s Bottom, West Virginia to get Rosie’s “goodness to rub off” on him. She is startled by the star’s arrival in town and is smitten by his attention. Tad is convinced that she is good for him and buys a farm to prove his good intentions and commitment. This move is much to the chagrin of Pete Monash (Topher Grace), Rosalee’s life long best friend who has harbored a crush on the pretty Piggly Wiggly checkout clerk. Pete, until Tad’s appearance on the scene, had planned to ask Rosie to move to Richmond with him and begin a life together. The plan is squashed when the handsome movie star comes to town.

This romantic triangle Cinderella story is extremely predictable with nothing happening that will change your mind on what the outcome will be. Rosie is star struck by Tad’s attention but she is still a smart and practical young woman. Pete, on the other hand, sees the threat and tries to make things right by showing the pampered Tad up. But, the actor is no slouch and can milk a cow and chop wood with the best of them. When Tad learns that his new image got him the part he coveted, he asks Rosie to come to LA with him. Pete, dejected, decides to head for Richmond alone.

Now, I ask you, what do you think is going to happen? If you are familiar with the Hollywood formula for teen targeted romantic comedies you can probably guess how “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” will end. The good thing about it is that it is an amiable little flick with attractive leads and a solid supporting cast – this latter fact seems to be a movement in Hollywood with several films, of late, being saved by the supporting characters.

Kate Bosworth has the Sweet Polly Purebread looks and persona to make her a feasible object of attention for a jaded star like Tad. Rosie’s bubbly and perky personality is complemented by her winning smile – Pete tells Tad that she has six smiles, a fact that the actor later uses for his own gain. Bosworth isn’t given much to do beyond looking wholesomely pretty but comes across well enough as a viable object of affection for Pete and Tad.

Topher Grace, as Pete, gets to put the most effective spin on his character. Pete is smart, hardworking and has a droll wit that makes him immediately a likable character. When he looks at Rosie his affection for her is palpable – making me wonder why Rosalee has missed this fact her entire life. Josh Duhamel, as the title character, has the good looks of a young Clint Eastwood and, though two-dimensional, does a decent job as the movie star.

The supporting cast helps to elevate “Win a Date…” with Ginnifer Goodwin affable and amusing as Rosie’s supportive best girlfriend, Cathy, who is perfectly happy to live in the wake of her friend’s good fortune. Gary Cole, as Rosalee’s father, gets some of the best laughs as he tries to show his worldliness to Tad with his chocolate martinis, movie industry news and “Project Greenlight” t-shirt. Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes, as the two Richards, don’t get much airtime but are an amusing Greek chorus for Tad. Kathryn Hahn, as a bartender with a crush of her own on Pete, garners a lot of sympathy as she puts aside her own feelings and tries to help him with his love problem.

Diector Robert Luketic, following his success helming “Legally Blonde,” keeps this light romantic comedy moving along at a fair clip. Working with an original script by Victor Levin, Luketic gets nice performances out of his actors and does a decent job in telling this romantic fable. Techs are uniform and straightforward.

“Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” is meant to please its teen girl target audience and, with its attractive cast, good humor and romantic story, it will likely succeed. I doubt that it will attract many over 30, but it will attract girls and boys who want to date those girls. It is predictable and without any surprises but its heart is in the right place. I give it a B-.

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