‘Win a Date with Tad Hamilton’ is a bit of a loser

Topher Grace, Kate Bosworth and Josh Duhamel in 'Win A Date With Tad Hamilton'
Topher Grace, Kate Bosworth and Josh Duhamel in ‘Win A Date With Tad Hamilton’

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! attempts to draw on our secret fantasies of dating movie stars but falls short. At worst, an effort in voyeurism, its attempt to become a cutesy romance is awkward and weak. The story centers on a love triangle that includes celebrity bad boy Tad Hamilton, a Piggly Wiggly checkout girl named Rosalee Futch and her best friend Pete. Pete’s lack of last name in the film only foreshadows the problems in the plot.

Omigosh! So, like, when naïve Virginia hick, Rosalee Futch (aka Small-town Barbie) enters a charity contest where she can “WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!” Well, she wins a date with Tad Hamilton. Rosalee doesn’t know that the contest is a ruse created by Tad’s managers Richard Lewis and his agent Richard Lewis (ahem) to clean up Tad’s image after a night of debauchery puts a damper on his future film prospects.

Kate Bosworth dons some bangs and an effervescent smile to make Ms. Futch, the one-of-a-kind ingénue that any pair of guys would squabble over. She isn’t coy, she doesn’t play any mind games and sometimes she acts a little (what’s the word?)…retarded. Whenever she’s nervous, Rosalee jumbles her words up so that “Hello, how are you” becomes “you how hello are”. Of course, everyone thinks it’s gee-golly-adorable, including the audience.

The drama in this comedy arises after Rosalee and Tad’s win-a-date is over. When Tad finds himself irresistibly drawn to Rosalee’s “goodness,” he rearranges his entire life to move to Virginia to be closer to her. Pete isn’t too pleased with all this. Not only does he find Tad utterly artificial, Tad’s cramping his style at the worst moment since Pete has finally come up with the nerve to tell Rosalee his true feelings.

The problems with the film begin when we’re lured into feeling sympathy for Pete while realizing that Tad is the most appealing suitor. Sure, until he meets Rosalee, Tad is incredibly lame and superficial but Rosalee makes him want to be a better man. All we know is that our acerbic Pete, the best manager Piggly Wiggly manager ever, has plans to go on to college and take Rosalee with him. All the gusto Topher Graces infers upon Eric Forman in That 70’s Show is nowhere to be seen.

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! spends so much time focusing on the lip-locks between Rosalee and Tad that we never really understand Pete. There is one wonderful montage where we see a night in the lives of Tad and Pete, both lonely but the latter more fun than the former. The film needed much more of this and less of Josh Duhamel’s alluring gazes. I adore Topher Grace but even I found myself beset by Duhamel’s come hither eyes.

Despite its plot troubles, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is considerably less bland than many of its predecessors. It promises equal doses of sweet and funny devoid of any depth and an ending that should be fulfilling but isn’t. The stylized version of California we see through Rosalee’s eyes is a biting commentary on how superficial the west coast can seem (or be) to an outsider. Unfortunately, to an outsider, the film, despite its quirky characters, is nothing more than skin-deep.

The deleted scenes on the DVD include an alternate opening that’s a throwback to Jerry Maguire and an alternate ending that’s much more fulfilling. Many of the deleted scenes would have made Pete a better candidate for best beau had they been incorporated in the film. Luckily, two (groan) Paris Hilton cameos were justifiably scrapped. The Gag Reel isn’t very funny but it will make you see Duhamel in a whole new light.

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