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Dustin Putman

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The Wedding Date (2005)
2 Stars

Directed by Clare Kilner
Cast: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jeremy Sheffield, Jack Davenport, Sarah Parish, Peter Egan, Holland Taylor, Jolyon James
2005 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual content including dialogue).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 2, 2005.

A hybrid of the majority of romantic comedies in recent memory, many of them set amidst the English countryside—everything from 1994's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" to 1997's "My Best Friend's Wedding" to 1997's "Picture Perfect" to 1999's "Notting Hill" to 2001's "Bridget Jones's Diary"—"The Wedding Date" grasps tightly onto the heels of its predecessors without differentiating itself from the norm. Directed by Clare Kilner (2003's "How to Deal"), "The Wedding Date" is unctuous from the very start—it begins with the flash-in-the-pan hit, "Breathless," a played-out song released by The Corrs almost five years ago—and, if not an outright chore to sit through, thoroughly pillowy and instantly forgettable.

In an effort to make ex-fiancé Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield) jealous, unlucky-in-love New Yorker Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) decides to hire an escort for $6,000 to accompany her to England for half-sister Amy's (Amy Adams) wedding. Jeffrey, who is to be the Best Man, will naturally be there, and Kat refuses to face him looking terminally single. When she first meets suave escort Nick Mercer (Dermot Mulroney), their relationship is strictly business. However, as the days go by and Kat endures the parties, get-togethers, and bachelorette celebration that go along with all weddings, she forgets all about Jeffrey and starts to grow feelings for the kind-hearted, sexy Nick.

"The Wedding Date," an unoriginal title that accurately matches the film's own level of innovation, is a piffle of a romantic comedy that embraces genre conventions while sidestepping some potentially interesting issues. Protagonist Kat, for example, is a gorgeous, likable young woman who, for reasons left unexplored, has trouble getting dates. That she finally falls in love with Nick is all well and good, but he comes from the "Pretty Woman" closet of prostitutes, where diseases are nonexistent, his own sexuality is smolderingly harmless, and the particulars of his profession are an afterthought in Kat's mind.

Director Clare Kilner attempts to add some spunk to Dana Fox's dreary screenplay by filling the picture with recognizable songs from the last five decades and a whole lot of quick-paced montage sequences. Occasionally, this style works for the film—the picture's most exhilaratingly joyous moment involves the use of Air Supply's "All Out of Love" as Kat and Amy poke outside of a limo's sunroof and form a bond that has long been missing from their rocky sibling relationship—and at only 90 minutes it doesn't have time to wear out its welcome. Also appreciative is the mostly subtle handling of some hurtful secrets for Kat that are exposed in the third act. While the reasoning behind Kat's sudden anger at Nick is unfounded and contrived—all screen couples must have a falling-out before the climactic rekindling—the actors, particularly Debra Messing (2004's "Along Came Polly") and Amy Adams (2002's "Catch Me If You Can"), wisely avoid over-the-top histrionics and find the truth within the situation.

At last not relegated to disposable side roles in feature films, "Will & Grace" actress Debra Messing has finally found her way into the lead role of a disposable feature film. Nevertheless, Messing is quite agreeable as Kat, a bright performer who is a pro at comedy and believably heartfelt in the dramatic interludes. As Nick, Dermot Mulroney (2002's "About Schmidt") is equally good-looking and shares some potent chemistry with Messing. Try not to laugh, though, when, in a getting-to-know-you scene, Nick announces he "majored in Comparative Literature at Brown." The often underrated Amy Adams brings poignancy, if only a little, to her role as Kat's selfish sister, Amy. The way that her character grows as a person and learns about herself through the mistakes she has made in her life is probably the closest the movie comes to real depth. And, as Kat and Amy's loud-mouthed friend, TJ, newcomer Sarah Parish fulfills her acidly brazen requirements without getting much time to evolve as a character.

"The Wedding Date" elicits a handful of smiles but not many laughs as it approaches a finale that comes as a foregone conclusion. In the annals of romantic comedies, this is a safe, mediocre one, inoffensive but more often stale than not. The actors and director Kilner do what they can to find energy in murkiness—this includes the ugly, soft-focus cinematography by Oliver Curtis—but ultimately can't do enough to make up for the tedious script. Audiences, including those who are fans of love stories, would do wise to ignore the RSVP on "The Wedding Date."
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman