Today’s movie: Win a Date with Tad Hamilton

I didn’t protest too much when TS1 brought this DVD home from the library. Looked harmlessly cute and offered two young actors that I think will be big stars in the near future in Topher Grace and Josh Duhamel. Kate Bosworth is an upcoming starlet–she’ll play Lois Lane in next year’s Superman Returns–though she has stiff age group competition from the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Scarlett Johannson and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Win a Date with Tad Hamilton is a worlds colliding triangular romantic comedy, a basic but robust framework. Duhamel plays Hamilton, a hunky Hollywood star in danger of ruining his career with fast living, Bosworth is small town fan Rosalee, and Grace her supermarket boss and good friend Pete. Tad’s agent and manager (both characters named Richard Levy, played by Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes) cook up the title contest, which Rosalee of course wins. During a sweet dinner date in Hollywood (fish out of water opportunity!), she opens his eyes to the emptiness of his life and so Tad flies to West Virginia to find out more. However, Pete is finally about to profess his love in the lunchroom when Hamilton arrives. Hijinks ensue!

Written by Victor Levin (Mad About You) and directed by Robert Luketic (both Legally Blonde movies and, opening in May, the J.Lo-Jane Fonda comedy Monster-in-Law), this movie works because of good writing, good pacing and editing plus a very strong performance by Topher Grace. Win a Date could easily have lost it’s way by leaning on cliches, a trap many younger target demo comedies fall to, or by wasting screen time on secondary plot lines. Instead Levin and Luketic use small portions of both as seasoning; for instance, Angelica, the hot bartender (Kathryn Hahn) who adores Pete the way Pete does Rosalee and Rosalee does Tad, might have tempted other filmmakers to add a scene or two but I saw nothing of the sort even in the deleted extras included on the DVD.

Props to Gary Cole for adding to his string of oddball supporting characters as Bosworth’s Dad; perhaps at 48 he passed his window of opportunity for big lead roles when Crusade crashed and burned but has done terrific work as Ron Livingston’s boss in cult fave Office Space, Mike Brady in the recent Brady Bunch flicks, and the sheriff in short-lived TV series American Gothic. Sean Hayes is hot and building off his crazy Jack from Will & Grace but a bit miscast here, trying too hard to be “straight.” Josh Duhamel is decent as Tad, showing he can play more than just the smartass pretty boy that’s his character on Las Vegas.

And yes girls, in case you were wondering, the fabulous Tad does have his own website!