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Scatological Farce Falls Flat
by Rossiter Drake on Feb 17, 2006
For those of you who value truth in advertising, a warning: Date Movie isn't so much a movie as a scatological gag reel, stuffed with some of the raunchiest gross-out humor you're likely to find. It misses far more often than it hits, but that doesn't seem to faze filmmakers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who unload their arsenal of lowbrow jokes at a dizzying pace.
If the material seems familiar, that's because Date Movie is strung together with borrowed ideas, jumping from one pop-culture parody to the next without so much as feigning an original thought. Movies like this wouldn't exist without other, better movies, and the targets here are decidedly scattered. Among them: Hitch, Pretty Woman, Meet the Parents, Kill Bill, Wedding Crashers and even Say Anything, which had managed to avoid the wrath of satirists for 17 years. No longer.
Alyson Hannigan plays Julia Jones, a morbidly obese young woman on the market for a man. Naturally, she pays a visit to Hitch (Tony Cox), a diminutive date doctor who teaches the romantically challenged a few tricks of the trade. (The joke here is that Hitch, a character originated by Will Smith, is now a sassy midget. Yawn.) After engineering a remarkable makeover that transforms Julia into a swimsuit model, he sends her off to compete on "Extreme Bachelor", in which desperate women compete for the heart of a strapping young man.
And it works. Julia meets Grant Fonckyerdoder (Adam Campbell), an engaging Brit who unveils an awkward, When Harry Met Sally-style fake orgasm on their first date. Never mind that he is in clear violation of Roger Ebert's First Law of Funny Names, which states that "funny names, in general, are a sign of desperation at the screenplay level." He and Julia are affable sorts, and before long they are engaged, over the objections of her father (Eddie Griffin) and Grant's jealous ex (Sophie Monk). But the road to the altar is covered with pitfalls, and by the time an Owen Wilson look-alike shows up to crash their wedding, Julia and Grant have endured almost every humiliation imaginable.
Julia gets the worst of it. She dances around in a fat suit, right before auto mechanics carve up her super-sized body and drain the fat into a mayonnaise jar. Her father tosses hummus in her face. And on her wedding day, she pops a zit so big that the blast sends her flying through a wall. Tasteless? Sure, but not nearly as cringe-inducing as the sight of Eddie Griffin spitting up a ball of chest hair.
Yet there are laughs. Not many, and not always for the right reasons, but Date Movie works in sporadic spurts, despite its many stomach-turning qualities. That's not a recommendation, mind you -- if you go to the well often enough, you're bound to come back with a little water. Hannigan, of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame, and Campbell are vibrant and endearing, and their prowess as physical comics is hard to ignore. But this is uninspired satire, content to mimic other movies without bringing new punchlines to the table. It's entertainment of the slightest order, and despite its PG-13 rating, unsuitable for children and squeamish adults.
Note: The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) generously clocks Date Movie's running time at an even 80 minutes. By my estimate, the credits began rolling after 69 minutes, making it one of the shortest feature-length films in recent memory. Those anticipating a fulfilling night at the movies should be warned that they are paying for little more than a glorified sitcom.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
by Rossiter Drake on Feb 17, 2006
images courtesy of 20th Century Fox