A film review by Craig J. Koban




2005, PG, 85 mins.

Kat Ellis: Debra Messing / Nick Mercer: Dermot Mulroney / Amy: Amy Adams / TJ: Sarah Parish / Jeff: Jeremy Sheffield / Victor Ellis: Peter Egan / Bunny: Holland Taylor

Directed by Clare Kilner / Written by Dana Fox

It’s not at all surprising that the new romantic comedy – THE WEDDING DATE – clocks in at the enormously sparse and stingy running time of 76 minutes before it fades to black for its final credits.  The film tries to fly in under the cinematic radar with a premise so wretchedly far-fetched and with developments bombarded at the viewer with such startling incredulity that only dreadful TV sitcoms could have dreamed up something better.  Yes, THE WEDDING DATE offers up its central premise within the first few minutes and when you have no faith in its conviction that early on, nothing can save the rest of the film. 

The film, within about five minutes, is completely dead on arrival.  It’s one thing when all of the characters that populate it are stock caricatures that reek of plain stupidity, but when the overall plot is scornfully pedestrian and routine, then that is something even more contemptible.  This film was long at 76 minutes and, like going to a really bad wedding reception, it probably would have been that much more palatable if one achieved a certain level of inebriation during it. 

This film not only insults the actors that try to pull off their characters in a modestly convincing manner, but also the audiences’ by trying to get us to buy into one crucial element of the film’s overall arc.  Imagine, all you ladies out there - if you will - that you are an enormously attractive person, so easy on the eyes that you could very easily walk into any bar and, under most normal circumstances, leave with any man of your choice.  You are that eye-catching. 

Now, let’s say that you were unfortunately invited to attend the wedding of your baby sister and you discover, to your chagrin, that your ex will be in attendance.  Obviously, you could hatch out a scheme to bring along a phony escort to make him insanely jealous, right?  Well, if you were so insatiable, would you feel the desperate need to hire a male escort or, to take a page out of Deuce Bigalow’s vernacular, “man whore” at a absorbingly over-priced $6000 to come along with you to the wedding in a vain effort to make your ex-boyfriend insanely jealous?  If you were so attractive, why would you have to bother with a male prostitute?  Surely you’d be able to find a date, or even borrow a male friend to take to the wedding? 

That is the ludicrous basis for THE WEDDING DATE, and it sets itself up so early on and invited my ridicule and disbelief in its premise so prematurely that my ability to buy into the rest of the ham-invested proceedings were lost altogether.  This has to be one of the more inexplicable romantic comedies of recent memory that basks in a sea of schlock and incredibly dumb and moronic plot developments.  This film is like Frankenstein’s monster in the sense that it feels so painfully manufactured from bits an pieces of other superior romantic comedies (most notably MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, and PRETTY WOMAN) that you kind of roll your eyes and stare at the screen in silent awe at how a film of such startling low interest, intrigue, and worthlessness could be made. 

THE WEDDING DATE is neither funny nor romantic.  The film is ultimately insulting in how it thinks that the audience will accept anything as credible and laugh at even the most lame and uninspired of slapstick antics.  As a result, this film is kind of revoltingly shallow and pointless.  After a few minutes in, when I lost my faith completely, I wanted to tune out as quickly as possible. 

Maybe the film and its basic premise could have been handled better with the choice of a more appropriate female lead.  The woman in the film that hires the male stud is played by WILL & GRACE’s Debra Messing, an appealing actress that does have a nice and subtle eye for light and broad comedy.  There is nothing wrong with her performance in THE WEDDING DATE per se, but her casting remains sort of mind-boggling.   She is so attractive and has such a cover page model smile and demeanour that I just could not – NOT FOR ONE MINUTE – believe that a woman of such fantastic physical assets would have to hire a male prostitute as a date. 

Not only that, but she apparently works as a customer service representative for an airline, a job that pays so lucratively in this film’s universe that she is able to afford and secure the services of the prostitute.  Hmmmm…I spent my time during the course of the film getting dizzy just thinking about a more appropriate choice for the role - someone who exudes apathy and low self worth - someone that I could believe would do something as low as hire a gigolo.  I won’t dispense with any names at the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings, but c’mon…a drop-dead attractive actress in this role…its sinks the whole one note gimmick.  One that is not so beautiful…then maybe there could have been something.

The male hooker in question in this film is Nick, played by Dermot Mulroney.  This is his second film about a wedding (he was the groom in the vastly superior MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING) and now he appears as one of those Chippendale-style female fantasy figures – ruggedly handsome, charming, debonair, quick witted and enormously confident and perceptive, so perceptive that he manages to be smarter than all of the other characters in the film and predict the series of improbable plot predicaments before they occur. 

Mulroney is a good choice for a romantic comedy and has an everyman level of allure and charisma, but here he seems so bland and bored with his role it’s as if he is self-aware of what a turkey he’s in.  His character is like one of those Hollywood inspired prostitutes – you know, one that engages in otherwise morally questionable and reprehensible behaviour, but gosh darn it, he has a heart of gold and is filled with subtle little hidden truths that can inspire and lead other characters down the right path.  Gimmie a break.  I don’t know what is worse, his character being insanely sanitized to force us to like him, or the insidiously awful lines he is committed to uttering, like, “I'd rather fight with you than make love to anybody else,” or the equally cringe inducing, “The hardest part of love isn't loving someone, but having the courage to let them love you back.” 

Kat (Messing) finds her $6000 man-whore where every other woman finds ridiculously expensive prostitutes - in the classifieds of the Sunday New York Times magazine.  You’d think that such an upper class ho like Nick would advertise in a magazine that was not quite so populist, but never mind.  Kat is your atypical, Meg Ryan-esque romantic comedy stock character – unapologetically cute and bubbly, but with an undercurrent of melancholy and low self-esteem.  Yup, she is so filled with such low self-worth that she fails to see how beautiful and charming she is.  In essence, she’s one of those dazzling women you just hate – c’mon, leave the self-pity for those of us with moderate good looks, ‘Kay? 

Anyway, she finds herself in a real fix early on in the film.  She needs to fly to London to go to her sister’s wedding.  Problem: the groom’s best man is Kat’s former fiancé who dumped her in the past.  The solution: she does what every hot chick would do…she hires a male escort (Mulroney) to go all the way to merry old England and pretend to be her soul mate.  Why does she go to all of this expense and trouble?  She wants to make Jeff as jealous as possible and not make herself look pathetic and single.  Being a single and pathetic 30-year-old man, I felt like grabbing Kat and saying, “Listen…there is nothing wrong with looking pathetic and single.  Maybe you’ll meet someone at the wedding?  If you look lonely, maybe someone will cling to you.”  But alas, she goes the route of hiring a whore.  Sigh.  Yes, he does cost six grand, but if you want some action in the sack, that’ll be extra.  What he does get is the money, not to mention great accommodations in London and a first class airplane ticket. 

The film, if you have read this far, goes along the straight line of predictability, and there is no denying how Kat and Nick will end up at the end.  The film also offers up, over and over again, such overbearing and simple-minded characters that you kind of wish were more empathetic and smartly drawn personas could have been in the supporting cast to provide some interest.  The film is also kind of shameful in which it tries to set up one particular subplot and leads you to thinking it’ll go one way and then it takes a sharp u-turn and reveals a secret that is not so much shocking as it is insipidly soap operaish.  This reveal is soon followed by one character screaming to the other, “Why didn’t you tell me,” and “How could you lie to me,” and…well...yadda-yadda. 

THE WEDDING DATE is an unmitigated mess.  It’s also one of those rare romantic comedies where you really don’t sympathize or like anyone.  Messing’s Kat is a girl that is so dim-witted and selfish that you begin to wonder whether she even deserves a prostitute’s love.  Mulroney’s Nick, arguably the most tricky character in the film, is ultimately unlovable and too cryptic and enigmatic to be really fully understood as a character.  He is a man of such closely guarded secrets that you never truly and honestly open up to him as a character.  Maybe a more interesting choice would have not to portray him as such a squeaky clean prostitute and, instead, as a really irrepressible SOB.  Nah…this film likes the safe approach more, which eventually makes it such a ho-hum affair.  As for Mulroney and Messing’s chemistry, it’s vaguely there.  They have moderate appeal together on screen, but the film is so negligent about how to properly deal with them that it is all for naught. 

One thing that I have learned from the movies is that it is very easy one to achieve love at first sight with a complete stranger, have them fall in love and then they can parade to the film’s conclusion and live happily ever after.  In essence, this is what great romantic comedies do – they create a sort of joyous and euphoric sense of anticipation in allowing us to really want the two leads to hook up and get together.  In this case, there is nothing wrong with a formulaic film that adheres to the particulars of its genre.  I fondly remember a romantic comedy from earlier this year – FEVER PITCH – that created honest, grounded, and earnest characters that were sweet, likeable, and affable.  You wanted that set of troublesome lovers to get together at the end because you yearned for them to do so.  There is none of those sensations in THE WEDDING DATE.  Instead, it completely implodes within a few minutes early on with a premise that does not, in any way, hold itself up.  If you have a romantic comedy with lead characters you don’t appreciate, have them proceed around in a story of limited believability, and through it you just don’t care if they get together…gosh…what’s the point, then?

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