February 23, 2006

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FILM: Date Movie (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

The “creative team” behind Spy Hard and Scary Movie turn their gleeful beating-dead-horses style of movie-making on the romantic comedy genre with Date Movie, a shrill venture from its icksome beginning to its tiresome final scene.

Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan) is a plus-sized girl with fantasies of a size-2, movie-perfect romance. Determined to find the perfect man, she turns to Hitch (Tony Cox) — a pint-sized version of the Will Smith character in the movie of the same name — who turns her into a sleek hottie and gets her on a The Bachelor-like reality show where she meets Grant (Adam Campbell). Though Grant and Julia are made for each other, they must waltz through scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Hitch, The Wedding Planner, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, When Harry Met Sally and, for good measure, Kill Bill, the Star Wars movies and Napoleon Dynamite.

A trooper, Hannigan keeps the movie marching forward through the mess. Date Movie is either proof that she’s a strong comic actress in need of decent scripts or someone better off in a supporting role whose work here is as good as she’s going to get. Which way she goes will depend on whether or not she allows herself to star in what I fear is the inevitable sequel.

You know, if ever a genre needed a little skewering it’s the segment of movies billed as “romantic” but which are basically thinly veiled variations on some Cinderella fantasy of being turned into a beautiful princess and rescued by a handsome prince. I’ve long considered these movies essentially girl porn that offers the same fulfillment of a desire with barely even the pretense of innovation or intelligent storytelling. A genre that so straight-facedly believes in such lunatic elements as the plain Jane who’s really a beauty queen or the last-minute chase that reunites lovers is just as parody-worthy as horror with its I’ll-go-check-on-that-scary-noise-wearing-only-my-underwear and its let’s-split-up-to-investigate-the-abandoned-house.

The problem, however, with parodying romantic comedies is the comedy part. It’s hard to make fun of something that already makes fun of itself. The most popular movies used for satiric purposes here are Meet the Parents and its sequel, movies that are more about slapstick comedy than anything else. Imitation of scenes from these movies in Date Movie doesn’t, therefore, feel like parody, it feels like plagiarism. The bad plagiarism of a hack comedian standing in front of a brick wall repeating jokes he heard on Leno the night before. Date Movie is the leftovers of a meal you never wanted to eat in the first place. D-

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