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MOVIE REVIEW

OK date, but this won't last

There may be sighs over 'Tad Hamilton,' but it's no keeper.

January 23, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

"Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" is a sweet-natured romantic comedy that's easy viewing but could have used a little more energy and a little less unalloyed niceness to put it over with more punch. As with the recent "Chasing Liberty," it's not likely to have much appeal beyond romance-fantasizing teenage girls.

Kate Bosworth's Rosalee Futch is a lovely and levelheaded supermarket cashier in Fraziers Bottom, W. Va., who wins a date with a Hollywood movie star, a hunky heartthrob. On screen, Josh Duhamel's Tad Hamilton is the boy next door, but his off-screen fast living has landed him in the tabloids. His agent (Nathan Lane) and manager (Sean Hayes) concocted the date contest, benefiting a charity, to polish Tad's image.

Off goes Rosalee to Hollywood, and Tad, as the perfect gentleman, takes her on a night on the town. She's so pretty that Tad invites her into his sleek hillside estate, but they're barely through the door when she decides it's time for her to get back to her hotel, which commands his amazed respect.

Although thrilled by the experience, Rosalee returns home and resumes her normal life. But who should turn up unexpectedly but Tad Hamilton, who has realized that Rosalee represents core values and priorities that he hopes will rub off.

Of course, Tad's presence sets the town agog. Especially alarmed is Topher Grace's Pete, who is Rosalee's boss, a witty and self-deprecating young man who has known Rosalee all his life and lacks the confidence to declare his love. (By coincidence, Grace and Bosworth have known each other since elementary school.) Especially thrilled is Ginnifer Goodwin's vivacious Cathy, Rosalee's co-worker and best friend. With the obvious potential of Tad and Rosalee's ostensibly platonic relationship swiftly turning romantic, poor Pete feels he is doomed never to win Rosalee's heart.

Writer Victor Levin's smartest move was to show how, under Rosalee's influence, Tad evolves from a spoiled movie star of inflated self-regard to a likable, considerate guy. Duhamel exudes charisma, and Robert Luketic, who directed "Legally Blonde," elicits from him a most appealing portrayal, as he does from Bosworth, Grace and Goodwin. (Goodwin has such a saucy, vibrant personality that the film might have had a little more edge and personality had Cathy won the date with Tad rather than Rosalee.)

Arguably, though, the film's strongest presence is the distinctive and assured Kathryn Hahn, who puts a fresh spin on an understanding bartender who carries a torch of her own. Another way in which the film could have been stronger would have been to allow the formidable Lane and Hayes to be more than Hollywood caricatures.

Except for a couple of rural establishing shots, "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" was filmed in and around Los Angeles, and despite the best efforts of the filmmakers, it shows. Even if viewers don't recognize San Pedro's Warner Grand as a stand-in for Fraziers Bottom's local Bijou, the film lacks a distinctive atmosphere. The impersonal look is a real detriment to a movie that feels a little too generic in the first place.

*

'Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!'

*

MPAA rating: PG-13, for sexual content, some drug references and language

Times guidelines: Suitable family fare

Kate Bosworth...Rosalee Futch

Topher Grace...Pete

Josh Duhamel...Tad Hamilton

Nathan Lane...Richard Levy The Driven

Sean Hayes...Richard Levy The Shameless

A DreamWorks Pictures presentation. Director Robert Luketic. Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher. Executive producers William S. Beasley, Gail Lyon. Screenplay by Victor Levin. Cinematographer Peter Collister. Editor Scott Hill. Music Edward Shearmur. Costumes Catherine Adair. Production designer Missy Stewart. Art director Mark Worthington. Set decorator Susan Mina Eschelbach.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

In general release.

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