Let's call the whole thing off



February 04, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC


* 1/2

The Wedding Date is the perfect movie for those whose only desire is to see Debra Messing look winsome or Dermot Mulroney appear hunky. The rest of us are going to find this inert romantic comedy seriously wanting.

While attempting to be equal parts Pretty Woman and My Best Friend's Wedding, this movie manages to make both of those earlier efforts seem like stunning cinematic achievements - at least they were put together with some forethought, offered a few honest laughs and contained natural chemistry between their stars. By contrast, there's nothing about The Wedding Date that isn't forced or labored; there's only a stubborn determination to embrace every cliche and make sure the stars photograph well.

Messing, who's undeniably attractive and, as has been proven on TV's Will & Grace, capable of playing a winning comic foil, portrays Kat, a charmingly neurotic airline customer-service representative whose younger half-sister is about to get married. Kat's problem?

The best man is the guy who recently broke her heart. Poor Kat can't stand the idea of going to the wedding alone and letting him see how miserable she is.

As problems go, this one doesn't seem too threatening, but it's the best that first-time screenwriter Dana Fox could come up with, so it'll have to do. Desperate to get out of this pickle, Kat shells out $6,000 to get stud-for-hire Nick (Mulroney) to accompany her overseas for the wedding.

At least Kat gets her money's worth. Nick's not only a stud guaranteed to make the other female guests swoon, but also a philosopher and relationship expert, as well as an excellent cricket player and expert short-order cook (OK, I'm guessing on the last one). He won't get intimate unless Kat pays even more, but short of that, he promises to do whatever is necessary to show her a good time.

Let's see, where could this movie go from here? Could Kat find Nick irresistible? Could Nick's icy reserve be melted by Kat's vulnerability? Could this plot be any more predictable?

Of course, in a good romantic comedy, a lack of subtlety doesn't matter, so clever is the writing, so winning are the leads, so comforting are the resolutions. But this is not a good romantic comedy. At best, it's piffle; at worst, it's a waste of talent (theirs), time (yours) and celluloid (its).

Nothing that happens here develops; events occur at arbitrary times and for no discernible reason. There's no way a woman like Kat would need to go to such lengths to find a date. And for such an experienced gigolo, one who's made a career of keeping his emotions in check, Nick falls for Kat way too easily.

Other problems abound. Why was this movie set in England, other than to ensure everyone spoke with a charming accent? Shouldn't at least one character be consistently funny? Sarah Parish, as Kat's bawdy cousin, has a few good lines, but her part is too formulaic to be anything more than irritating. And is it always necessary to have one family member who's obnoxious beyond reason? Holland Taylor, as Kat's mom, gets the sad duty here, and the less seen of her, the better.

Director Clare Kilner (How to Deal) adds nothing to the mix, treating the whole movie as though a paint-by-numbers exercise is all movie audiences want. Kat may have gotten her money's worth with Nick, but the rest of us are destined to leave the theater feeling cheated.

The Wedding Date

Starring Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney

Directed by Clare Kilner

Released by Universal Pictures

Rated PG-13 (Language, sex, partial nudity)

Time: 90 minutes

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