Combustible Celluloid
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With: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Holland Taylor, Jack Davenport, Jeremy Sheffield, Sarah Parish, Amy Adams
Written by: Dana Fox, based on a book by Elizabeth Young
Directed by: Clare Kilner
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/18/2013

The Wedding Date (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Messing's Messy 'Date'

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Ingenuity creeps into several scenes of the largely stereotypical chick-flick love comedy The Wedding Date -- but all its imagination comes at the wrong end of the creative process. What good is a uniquely photographed dance scene if the characters dancing together are barely two-dimensional?

The plot is pure, predictable sitcom gimmickry: Debra Messing plays a romantically frazzled beauty in her early 30s (not entirely unlike her sitcom role on TVs "Will and Grace") who hires an escort (Dermot Mulroney) to act the part of a besotted boyfriend at her sister's wedding. She hopes to stave off haranguing from her embarrassing, busybody mother (the fabulously uppity Holland Taylor) and stir jealousy in the ex-fiancé who left her at the altar two years before.

Peppered with conventional montage sequences (set to shopworn 1950s girl-group ditties and Shania Twain anthems), and pushed along by overly-staged scenes that defy common sense, the script is clumsy at best. Even though she's anxious about pulling off this stunt, Messing hires Mulroney sight unseen and doesn't concoct a backstory (his occupation, where they met, how long they've been dating) until pulling him into a coat room at the rehearsal dinner in a panic. This despite having a 12-hour cross-Atlantic flight during which they could have been rehearsing their fictional relationship.

Throw in a loudmouthed, oversexed best friend (lifted from Britcoms like Bridget Jones), a secret that threatens to derail the nuptials, and purely expositional scenes like the one in which characters who are trying to avoid each other inexplicably picnic together for the sake of moving along various subplots, and The Wedding Date has a lot of hackneyed hurdles to overcome.

Great chemistry and good humor between romantic leads has often lent charm to bad scripts, but alas, Messing and Mulroney are so mismatched, and their character so underwritten (save that fact that Mulroney's gigolo spouts preposterously sage advice to anyone in earshot), that the atmosphere of their eventual drunken (but supposedly magical) sex scene approaches genuine creepiness.

Will he expect extra payment for additional services rendered? Is he giving her a freebie because she's a knockout? Is he falling for her? It's impossible to tell. Will she remember jumping his bones when the hangover wears off? Will she think he took advantage? Is she falling for him? This stuff may not be going through the characters' heads, but a viewer can't help but be preoccupied as they strip off their clothes.

It doesn't help that one pivotal moment in which these two stare at each other with supposed desire in their eyes has obviously (and I mean obviously) had its dialogue re-recorded after the fact, further dampening any hint of romantic spark. And why are all the anxieties of Messing's character abandoned after the first act, making her character (and by extension the whole movie) seem suddenly dull?

Director Clare Kilner (How to Deal) tries hard to make the picture's bumpy story arch seem fresh with stylish, somewhat unconventional visuals (not unlike Bronwen Hughes did in the off-kilter Ben Affleck-Sandra Bullock comedy Forces of Nature). But at its heart The Wedding Date is a sloppy collage of romantic conventions and misfiring plot devices, all wrapped up in a pretty package.

Best Buy Co, Inc.