Starring: Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell, Eddie Griffin, Fred Willard, Sophie Monk, Tony Cox, Carmen Electra. Rated PG-13.
For those of you who value truth in advertising, a warning: Date
Movie isn’t so much a movie as a
scatological highlight 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 punch-lines 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.