Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes, Gary Cole, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kathryn Hahn, Octavia Spencer, Amy Smart, Stephen Tobolowsky, Moon Bloodgood
Written by: Victor Levin
Directed by: Robert Luketic
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, some drug references and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/23/2004

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Giving Up the Hunk

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Within minutes of the new romantic comedy Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, we know to throw our date-movie rule books out the window. Our three heroes, trapped happily within the confines of Frazier's Bottom, West Virginia, watch the latest date movie from sensitive Hollywood hunk Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). In this fictional film's final minutes, he wins the heart of a 1950s-era nurse (Amy Smart) by asking her to dance in the middle of the street. It bends the brain to try to think of a real-world sensitive actor with Tad's perfect pecs who still has that aw-shucks Jimmy Stewart quality. And so we enter a world in which fresh-scrubbed sweetness actually counts.

In the audience, slender Pete Monash (Topher Grace) wonders what kind of emotional cripple would buy such an ending, but his two female friends, the goofy Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) and the dreamy Rosalee (Kate Bosworth) have their receipts. While not at the movies, the three work at the local Piggly Wiggly, and Pete silently pines away for Rosalee. She enters a contest and wins a date with dream-boat Tad, who turns out to be a fast-cars and faster-women type, and subsequently wins him over with her small-town charm.

Directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), the film's overall arc eventually gets precisely where it appears to be going, but refreshingly, the road it takes is not entirely familiar. Luketic bathes the film in an even, brightly colored light, making everything feel starched and clean. By constantly banging up against this universe's beautifully papered walls, it finds a sure-fire basis for its humor and charm.

The movie playfully bats the two male rivals back and forth as they battle it out for the angelic Rosalee. Pete uses whatever weapon he can find: brains against brawn, brawn against brawn -- they actually strip off their shirts, grab a pair of axes and try to out-chop each other at the woodpile -- and charm against charm. Too bad that leaves the girls with very little to do except smile and swoon, not to mention underused appearances by Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes as Tad's agent and manager.

Still, one nice touch comes in the form of voluptuous bartender Angelica (Kathryn Hahn), who has a thing for Pete but remains true to her professional duties, pouring double whiskies while helping us understand the mysteries of the human heart. For those of us without an Angelica to help, at least there's Tad Hamilton to put smiles on both you and your date's faces.

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