Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!

on January 23, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
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As teenage-friendly romantic comedies go, "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" isn't terribly original, centering around a familiar love triangle: Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy keeps his feelings to himself and befriends girl instead. Girl meets hunk. Hunk falls in love with girl. Boy concedes defeat as hunk sweeps girl off to Hollywood.

The boy in this case is Pete (Topher Grace of TV's "That '70s Show"), a manager of the Piggly Wiggly in Fraziers Bottom, W.Va. The girl is Rosalee ("Blue Crush's" Kate Bosworth), his friend since childhood who works in the same supermarket as a checkout girl. And the hunk is Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel, a relative unknown who's won a Daytime Emmy for "All My Children") who meets Rosalee in the titular contest designed to improve his bad-boy image. Unexpectedly, Tad is smitten by the down-to-earth Rosalee and follows her to her small hometown, where he hopes that, by spending time with her, some of her "goodness" will rub off on him. Pete realizes too late that he should have admitted his feelings for Rosalee a long time ago.

Yet, working within this formula, helmer Robert Luketic, who scored a surprise hit with "Legally Blonde," strikes out at a brisk clip, cutting extraneous material to keep the story moving forward. Here there are no wasted lines of dialogue, meaningful glances or transition scenes explaining how the characters got from here to there.

And, while the scenes set in Hollywood are characterized by cell-phone cliches and amusing if caricaturized performances by Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes as Richard Levy, Tad's agent, and Richard Levy, Tad's manager, respectively (yes, they're both named Richard Levy, in a Hollywood in-in joke), there's a pet sidekick that actually garners some original laughs.

Meanwhile, the leading trio exhibit an attractive, easy-going chemistry. Bosworth looks as at home in her Piggly Wiggly uniform as the formalwear she wears on her date with Tad, possessing the combination of graceful beauty and appealing accessibility required of the role. Grace, who's already exhibited range in projects including "That '70s Show" and Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic," is guileless in his portrayal as the less-desirable catch and is particularly delightful in a scene in which he tries to out-do Tad in farm chores such as chopping wood and milking cows. And Duhamel exhibits an easy confidence, perfectly inhabiting the swagger of a movie star without demonizing him.

Screenwriter Victor Levin has devised some original dialogue that is sure to make fans of the genre swoon, and the execution of one particular moment, when Tad is presented with an opportunity to exploit Rosalee with an intimate observation made by Pete, one fairly holds one's breath, willing him not to go down that road. Inevitably he does, but the payoff in the end is worth it. Starring Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace and Josh Duhamel. Directed by Robert Luketic. Written by Victor Levin. Produced by Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher. A DreamWorks release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some drug references and language. Running time: 95 min

Tags: Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Robert Luketic, romance, love triangle, rivalry
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