*insert Wilhelm scream here*
Who hasn’t fantasized about meeting a celeb? I know I have, and in this age of social media it’s more possible than ever, at least on some level. That can be pretty cool. Or not, but I won’t mention any names.
It’s kind of an odd mix of navel-gazing and fairy tales when stars meet regular people in movies, though, and one of these is 2004’s Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, a cute, good-hearted rom-com directed by Robert Luketic of Legally Blonde fame.
Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) is a star with an image problem. He drinks, he carouses, he drives recklessly, and industry professionals are getting nervous, especially his two agents, Richard Levy the Driven (Nathan Lane) and Richard Levy the Shameless (Sean Hayes). Prestigious director Jimmy Ng wants to cast Tad in his upcoming movie, but Tad’s activities have prompted Mr. Ng to step back and take a breath.
There’s a touch of irony to Tad’s stardom. He seems to have made some edgy films, and one of his product endorsements has him chugging a soda called Miercoles while dirt-biking, but most of his movies have a Lifetime Channel-trying-to-be-Turner-Classic-Movies feel to them. Predictable, canned, and corny. Yet audiences applaud during the ending credits as if they’ve just watched Clark Gable swat Joan Crawford’s hiney. Tad’s not that good, and yet he’s this huge star, but why quibble, right?
Meanwhile in Fraser’s Bottom, West Virginia, Piggly Wiggly cashier Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth) contemplates her favorite Pringle flavor with one of her best friends and fellow cashier, Cathy Feely (Ginnifer Goodwin) while her other best friend, assistant store manager Pete Monash (Topher Grace) surveys Grocer’s Monthly. Rosalee thinks Sour Cream and Onion works for eating half a can, but Original is the thing for endurance munching.
Then Rosalee gets an e-mail that could change her whole life: If she donates a hundred dollars to Save the Children she can win a date with Tad Hamilton. Our three principals have seen every Tad Hamilton movie and gone gaga, or at least Cathy and Rosalee have, so this is a pretty big deal. Pete keeps his eyes on Grocer’s Monthly and dryly remarks, “Heaven is just a mouse-click away.”
Everyone breathe. And squeal, if so inclined.
Yep, Rosalee wins the contest and she jets off to LA, much to the delight of starstruck Cathy and the chagrin of Pete, who’s secretly in love with her. He presents Rosalee with a can of Original Pringles and a reminder to “guard her carnal treasure” while everyone flinches.
When Rosalee meets Tad, she can barely talk. He’s a nice guy who’s very nonchalant about his fame, but he’s still Tad Hamilton, and Rosalee feels like she’s on another planet. She also feels carsick because she’s not used to riding sideways in a limo, not to mention Tad smoking a cigarette turns her stomach. Still, the evening is unbelievably, chastely romantic and the stars are still in Rosalee’s eyes when she tells the story to Pete and Cathy back home.
Tad’s not completely out of the picture, though. A few minutes after Rosalee finishes giving everyone a play-by-play of her date, he walks into the break room. Jaws drop. Cathy screams and drops a bag of chips. Pete stammers when shaking Tad’s hand. Rosalee is stunned, but she recovers in time to go to lunch with Tad at the diner.
And why is Tad in West Virginia? He says he wants to learn Rosalee’s values and he can’t do it in Hollywood. No one buys it except for Rosalee and Cathy, but Tad seems so committed that he throws away his cell phone and buys a farm.
Rosalee and Tad begin a whirlwind romance while Pete watches helplessly, pouring his heart out to sympathetic bartender Angelica (Kathryn Hahn). He’s going to leave for college in Richmond and wants Rosalee to go with him, but he feels like he doesn’t stand a chance. Or does he? It’s not hard to predict, because it’s that kind of movie.
Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! feels remarkably innocent and simple, even though it came out less than twenty years ago. Critics were mixed about it, mainly because of its lack of sordidness and other elements that often make rom-coms what they are. Descriptors like “bubble gum” got tossed around a lot. Roger Ebert liked it, though, comparing Rosalee to Kitty in Anna Karenina and summing it up thusly: “It’s retro in every respect, a romantic comedy in a world so innocent that a lifetime is settled with a kiss.”
I agree with Mr. Ebert–Win A Date is refreshingly nostalgic. We get to hear Liz Phair’s then-ubiquitous “Why Can’t I?” and Soul Kid #1’s “(More Bounce In) California.” Cell phones were only for talking and maybe texting, there was no social media as we know it, and stars still had some mystique. Rosalee’s carnal treasure is safe, although Tad is an experienced guy.
Win’s cast is pretty solid and every last one of them is charming. Well, except for the two Richards, but they’re not supposed to be charming. Kate Boswell in particular holds the movie together, and her Rosalee was quite a departure from her previous turn as surfer Anne Marie in Blue Crush. Topher Grace was also getting to be a huge star at the time because That 70s Show was in full swing, and he got to flex his comedic muscles here. Ginnifer Goodwin was up and coming as well, but she would have a lot more meat in her next role, that of Vivian Cash in Walk the Line. Josh Duhamel was also very good, but he didn’t have to do much because he was an actor playing an actor.
The one thing I would say about this movie is there could have been more done with Pete and Rosalee’s relationship. These two have grown up together so they have a long history, but where are the inside jokes? The stories? Rosalee spends more time with Tad than she does with Pete and Pete has more scenes with Cathy and Angelica than Rosalee. It feels like a missed opportunity, and in the end it doesn’t make the triangle as sharply angled as it could be.
So. After all of this, those who haven’t seen Win A Date must be wondering where in this sweet, innocent film is there a Wilhelm scream?
It’s very subtle. While Rosalee and Tad are at the movies one night, a depressed Pete turns on the TV to find his rival on every station and watches a First World War soldier getting blown out of a trench by a shell. That’s it. That’s the Wilhelm scream.
Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! doesn’t break any new ground, and there are elements that could have been done better, or at least with a little more snap, but it’s a fun movie and that’s OK.
For more Wilhelm screams, please see Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews. Thanks for hosting, this, Gill–it was a great idea! Thanks for reading all, and I hope to see you back here on March twelfth for a new Shamedown, the first post in a big string of stuff. Yep, I’m taking a wee blog break. Have a good one and see you soon…
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