Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! does very little that’s special. It gets some points for Bleu and BT on the soundtrack, raises the bar on soft-focus shots of its angelic leading lady and somehow makes West Virginia look like something out of The Bridges of Madison County.
Director Robert Luketic essentially has made a film with a surface-level sheen of cuteness that reveals a better-than-average script — a carbon copy in mood of his previous film, Legally Blonde. Undemanding and genial, it does what it needs to do in that it’s well acted, sharply paced and has some effective romantic gets.
Kate Bosworth stars as Rosalee Futch, a checkout clerk at a Piggly Wiggly smitten with heartthrob movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). She may dig him, but Hollywood hasn’t been ringing his phone off the hook. Bad-boy photos of his drinking, driving, smoking and groping (all at once) also are of no help.
His manager (Nathan Lane) and publicist (Sean Hayes) concoct a quick fix clean up — an Internet contest for a fan to win a date with Tad. When Rosalee wins, she flies to Los Angeles for the date, much to the chagrin of best friend, Piggly Wiggly manager and severe crusher Pete (Topher Grace).
Thinking she’ll have the date, get it out of her system and move with him to Richmond, Va., Pete’s only problem is his inability to say how he feels. A love triangle ensues when Tad follows Rosalee back to her small West Virginia town, smitten by Rosalee’s goodness and intent on winning her heart.
The script by Victor Levin (a writer for Mad About You) is as intelligent as it needs to be, dropping in a handful of clever sight gags and snappy one-liners for skeptical Pete. His mantra to Rosalee to “guard her carnal treasure” in Tad’s presence is a hoot. The film’s best line, though, delivered with brutal honesty, goes to Gary Cole.
Destined to go unrecognized as a great character actor, Cole turns in another brief but memorable performance as Rosalee’s father, trying to impress Tad by reading Variety’s Web site and serving chocolate martinis.
Ginnifer Goodwin, herself a blossoming talent, is in full Joan Cusack bloom as Rosalee’s overheated friend, Cathy.
They represent a mostly fine-form cast, the exceptions being Lane and Hayes. Their scenes together are a good example of what hell’s eternally running sitcom must be like.
But the joy in Bosworth’s hearty laughs and toothy smiles is something to see. Wisely, Tad is written as a real person, and Duhamel captures his pros and cons all while looking like a cleaned-up cousin to Johnny Knoxville.
The linchpin, though, is Grace, throwing himself with healthy cynicism into the Duckie role from Pretty in Pink. Amid his perfectly timed barbs is sweetness and touching concern for Rosalee. His six-smiles speech is good enough that it kicks off all chains of romantic dopiness.