Win a Date With Tad Hamilton Reviewby Michael Dequina (mrbrown AT iname DOT com)
February 2nd, 2004
_Win_a_Date_with_Tad_Hamilton!_ (PG-13) *** (out of ****)
Much of the media attention around _Win_a_Date_with_Tad_Hamilton!_ has, fittingly enough, focused on Josh Duhamel, who plays the titular movie superstar. While the charismatic big screen newcomer would be a revelation to those unfamiliar with his Daytime Emmy-winning work on _All_My_Children_ or his current gig on the prime time series_Las_Vegas_--which is to say, *most* people--equally revelatory, if not more, are the two other young stars at the top of the cast list, Kate Bosworth and Topher Grace.
Bosworth and Grace are hardly unfamiliar faces, but audiences have never quite seen them as they are in Robert Luketic's agreeably sunny romantic comedy. "Sunny" isn't a word one would associate with its leading lady in particular, considering her most prominent credits: wearing a perpetually glum face in the surfing drama _Blue_Crush_ and appearing as John Holmes's teenage girlfriend in the perpetually glum _Wonderland_. In _Tad_Hamilton!_, Bosworth exudes an early Julia Roberts-esque incandescence as Rosalee Futch, a simple checkstand girl at a West Virginia Piggly Wiggly who... wins a date with Tad Hamilton. A staple on the long-running sitcom _That_'70s_Show_, Grace's most notable feature work to date was a small but memorable role in _Traffic_--in no way hinting at the appealingly offbeat leading man he makes here as Pete Monash, Rosalee's manager at the Piggly Wiggly, who (natch) carries a secret torch for his longtime friend.
Rosalee's trip to Hollywood is supposed to be a Cinderella-like, single-evening dream come true, but her small-town charm awakens something in Tad. What was intended as a shameless PR gimmick turns out to be more for the jaded Tinseltown player, and Tad makes a sudden move to West Virginia--much to Rosalee and her best friend Cathy's (a wonderful, scene-stealing Ginnifer Goodwin) delighted shock, but much to Tad's same-named manager and agent's (Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes, both given little to do) chagrin, not to mention Pete's as well. It's easy to see where Victor Levin's script is going from the outset, but Luketic and, most especially, his game cast make the proceedings not only enjoyable, but something to actually worth caring about.
To label Tad as the "bad guy" in the scenario isn't entirely accurate; while he is definitely the designated spoiler character, Duhamel makes Tad likable beyond his matinee idol looks and charisma. While Tad doesn't always do the right thing, his more questionable behavior is more due to misguidedness than malice; overall, he's a nice and well-meaning guy--it's just that Pete is a preferable match for Rosalee. Pete, as played by Grace, is not your typically sad sack guy next door; his astringent, sarcastic wit adds welcome levity to a film that seems almost antiquated in its freshly-scrubbed, innocent idealism. Grace is also able to convincingly play along with the film's overriding sincerity; look no further than Pete's climactic confessional to Tad, which is at once wryly funny and genuinely heartfelt (not to mention somewhat absurd, given that it is delivered in a men's room stall, of all places). Bosworth's Rosalee makes it very easy to believe that these two very different guys would fall over themselves for her; beyond her cuteness and spunk, Rosalee also has a sensible brain that makes her all the more difficult to resist.
And that also applies to the whole of _Win_a_Date_with_Tad_Hamilton!_ There's nothing here that hasn't been seen or done before, but Luketic and his stars unabashed sweetness and sincerity make for a winning confection.
©2004 Michael Dequina
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