Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is the kind of film that will set off the more cynical moviegoers. Close to nothing in the film stands up to the mildest of logic tests, and one of the characters is perfect and wholesome on levels that are inhuman and unholy.
Still, don't be surprised if you should end up buying what the makers of this funny fairy tale are trying to sell. Promising young performers Kate Bosworth and Topher Grace wind up elevating what could've been your typical January dumping-ground movie into something resembling quality entertainment.
While movie star Tad Hamilton (played by likable newcomer Josh Duhamel of Las Vegas) comes off as a humble American hero onscreen, he's a bad boy in the real world, a publicity nightmare. His philandering has turned off movie studios, so his agent and manager (both named Richard Levy and played by the funny Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes) concoct a scheme to improve his image: Tad will go on a contest date with one of his fans for charity, show himself as the kindhearted spirit he portrays in movies and win back the respect of big-name directors.
Enter Rosalee Futch (Bosworth), contest winner and cashier at a West Virginian Piggly-Wiggly. Before boarding a plane to Hollywood and the big date, her manager and best friend, Pete (Grace), declares that she must "guard her carnal treasure." Pete, of course, is in love with Rosalee, and in great, brain-dead romantic comedy fashion, she hasn't a clue.
Rosalee comes off as a super heroine of virginal poise. When Tad attempts to lure her into his nighttime lair, she resists and returns to her homeland, satisfied that a fantasy has been fulfilled without that opening of the aforementioned carnal treasure. Hamilton is smitten, follows her to West Virginia and buys a ranch. Thus begins the war for Rosalee's heart between Tad and Pete. Can you guess who wins?
The soundtrack is full of one bubble-gum pop song after another, and they do begin to grate. And some questions persist: What agent would really be worried about their bad boy client's partying ways? Bad boys get press, and press is golden. How many women or men would resist the chance to bed their ultimate fantasy? Would Rosalee actually be unaware of Pete's love for her? Who the hell would name their kid "Topher"?
Those able to resist these nagging questions should find themselves having a pretty good time. Bosworth is a charmer with a capital "C," making an unbelievable character enjoyable and complete. This should catapult her closer to superstardom. Grace, so good on TV's That '70s Show, displays effortless comic timing. He could actually replace '70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher as the current "it" boy.
Providing the film with some of its biggest laughs is the always reliable Gary Cole as Rosalee's dad, star-struck by his daughter's dating a movie star. A sight gag involving a Project Greenlight T-shirt is priceless, and a moment when he's sipping from a mug reminds of his infamous coffee-drinking sex scene in Office Space.
The planets aligned on Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! to produce a good, fun movie out of schlock, and its stars shouldn't press their luck. Here's hoping Bosworth and Grace resist the urge to commercialize themselves as romantic comedy leads, because most films in the genre are sentimental pap. May they spurn big paydays for potential romantic comedy swill in the certain future, in much the same way Rosalee shuns Tad's bedroom advances. They'll probably take the cash.