Win a Date With Tad Hamilton Review

by Laura Clifford (laura AT reelingreviews DOT com)
January 23rd, 2004


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!"

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.


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