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Miserable ‘Date’ fails to deliver

Observer Scene | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

“Date Movie” miserably and awkwardly crawls its way through 83 minutes to become the worst and least funny movie of the year.

Co-writer Aaron Seltzer makes his directorial debut, and with any luck, he won’t get behind the camera again. The tagline for the movie exclaims, “From Two of the Six Writers of ‘Scary Movie!'” Clearly the other four writers are desperately needed to craft a funny script. And the absence of the Wayans brothers (Damon and Marlon) makes “Scary Movie” appear like a Picasso painting and “Date Movie” look like the scribbling of a three-year-old.

The plot combines elements from various romantic comedies – so many romantic comedies in fact, that the audience misses many of the references. Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan) is an obese waitress at her family’s Greek restaurant. It’s love at first sight when she spots Grant Funkyerdoder (Adam Campbell), a suave Hugh Grant-like character who sees the true beauty in her. But Julia thinks the only way she can win the man is with a complete beauty makeover (Miss Congeniality) and hook-ups (Hitch). At the end of the day, Julia is 200 pounds lighter and ready to win Grant’s heart on a reality game show.

The two fall in love, decide to get married, meet the parents, meet the best friend who is still in love with Grant and break off their engagement, among a series of other predictable occurrences. The ending is no surprise given the movie’s title. But just because we know what will happen doesn’t excuse the movie from offering us at least one surprise – at least one gag that makes us laugh at loud.

Instead, the funny moments can be counted on one hand.

Gags are taken too far and it depends so much on recycled lines from its spoofed movies that it leaves little room for original jokes or witty dialogue. The most painful gag comes when Julia and Grant go to couples’ therapy (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) slowing down any momentum the movie had.

Equally painful to watch was the “My Best Friends Wedding”-like song at dinner. Instead of singing a classic, the characters sang an original song – or unoriginal considering the lack of humor – and had the sound quality of a high school film project.

Everything in the movie reeked of poor quality, from the script to the cutting to the sound editing. A film production student could have better crafted this movie. The movie also underplayed the resources it had, especially Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge who portrayed Grant’s parents – Bernie and Roz. Both were very funny and could have been better utilized over the course of the film.

Hannigan’s performance was nothing special and the actress should not have taken this role. She proved her comedic talent in the “American Pie” movies and currently in CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother.” She should be beyond appearing in grossly sub-par movies whose star cameo is Carmen Electra in a leopard print bikini.

Bottom line? This movie should have never been made. It is not “Scary Movie.” It’s not even “Dude, Where’s My Car?” For a parody to succeed it must be funny and it must not undermine its audience’s intelligence. Viewers don’t go in to “Date Movie” expecting cinematic excellence, but they also don’t go in expecting the 12-year-olds in the front row will be the only ones laughing by the end. And chances are, those 12-year-olds haven’t even seen half the movies referenced.

The concept of this movie had tremendous potential, but two untalented writers – one of whom is an even less talented director – killed any chance the project had.