Make a date with predictable but pleasant 'Tad Hamilton'
Seattle Times movie critic
Sweet as maple syrup and bouncy as star Kate Bosworth's, uh, hair, "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!" is a perky throwback to romantic comedies of an earlier era, a squeaky-clean romantic triangle featuring an innocent small-town beauty and the two good-hearted men who love her.
Director Robert Luketic, who broke through with the even bouncier "Legally Blonde" a few years back, knows how to make this kind of material sing, and though he's working with a screenplay that's never quite as witty as it wants to be, his charming cast makes "Tad" a pleasant, if undemanding journey.
Rosalee (Bosworth), a Sandra Dee-ish blonde, is a sweet-natured checker at the Piggly Wiggly in a small West Virginia town, where she dreams of someday meeting her favorite movie star, Tad Hamilton ("All My Children" star Josh Duhamel).
Fate, Hollywood-style, intervenes: She wins a "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" contest (concocted by Tad's handlers, concerned over his bad-boy image) and jets to L.A. for a chaste evening with the star. Upon meeting him, she whimpers like a puppy, so overcome that words desert her.
Need I tell you that bad Tad, who can whip off his sunglasses like an A-list star, soon becomes enchanted by Rosalee and follows her back home to West Virginia, convinced that her goodness can "feed his soul" and make him a better man?
Or that quiet Pete (Topher Grace), her pal at the Piggly Wiggly, has long been in love with her as well, but was afraid to tell her — and, now that strapping Tad is on the scene, Pete fears that he won't measure up? Or that Rosalee has a standard-issue best friend (Ginnifer Goodwin) who wears wacky clothes and supplies comic relief?
It's all predictable stuff, but played with a nice lightness.
Duhamel, who has that almost indecent breed of handsomeness that's common to soap-opera actors (his looks seem assembled by computer — at home on a movie poster, a little jarring in real life), grins and poses winningly. His Tad is a sweet guy, if a little dim (he borrows dialogue from his movies to impress girls); his intentions are honorable. It's that kind of movie.
Grace, a young actor of impressive range (he was Erika Christensen's druggie boyfriend in "Traffic"), here has transformed himself into the perfect small-town good guy; he's like a more compact Brendan Fraser, noble and just a bit nebbishy.
Trying to save Rosalee from a hellish (well, Tad-ish) fate, he warns, "I bet he's slept with, like, 15 or 20 women," and you can hear the pause in his voice; he's hesitant to relate such an appalling fact. And the ever-smiling Bosworth, though she looks far more like a California girl than a West Virginia native, is sweetness personified.
Plenty of the jokes in "Tad Hamilton" don't quite work; Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes have little to do as Tad's agent and manager, and the fact that they're both named Richard Levy falls flat. But enough of them register, and enough goodwill is generated by the cast to coast the movie along.
It's a pleasant fantasy, downright cute in spots, with a nice little message: Everyone, we learn, is Tad Hamilton to someone. Awww.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company