Wedding Date, The (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Calling The Wedding Date a "romantic comedy" is a misnomer. It's not funny, and there's not much romance. Oh, the film thinks it's got humor - offbeat characters, wacky situations, goofy faces - but the only members in the audience likely to be chuckling are those who will laugh at anything. And it thinks it's romantic - but bringing a male and female together and letting them kiss and make goo-goo eyes at each other is hardly the basis of a good love story. This is a charmless, lifeless affair that had me leaving the theater in a mood more appropriate to a funeral than a wedding.

This is Dermot Mulroney's second Wedding movie. In his much better first one (My Best Friend's Wedding), he played the groom. Here, as Nick Mercer, he's the male prostitute who has been paid to escort Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) to her sister's nuptials. She doesn't want to go alone and apparently can't get a date without paying for one. Enter Nick, who, for $6000 and a round-trip ticket to England (where the ceremony is taking place), will fill the role. Sex, however, isn't part of the package. If it's desired, there's an extra charge. For Kat, consider this added complication: her ex-fiancé, Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield), is the best man. Plus, the only member of her family she gets along with is her stepfather (Peter Egan), which is understandable considering how vain and thoroughly unlikable her sister (Amy Adams) and mother (Holland Taylor) are.

Anyway, unless you have never seen a romantic comedy, you know how the story goes. Unfortunately, director Clare Kilner and screenwriter Dana Fox assume audience members are so familiar with the formula that they don't bother to develop the relationship between Kat and Nick. It sort of materializes out of thin air. One moment, they are client and employee, discussing the terms of their arrangement, and the next, they're in love. It's something of a mystery how this transition occurs, since The Wedding Date never bothers to tell that part of the story. It's too busy annoying us with irritating subplots featuring secondary characters.

Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney are pleasing enough to look at (Messing is a lot more attractive here than in her TV series, "Will & Grace"), and they have plenty of low-key appeal, but there's little evidence of anything resembling a romantic spark between them. If Nick and Kat love each other, they do a good job hiding it. Neither actor is well-served by the screenplay, which is criminally negligent when it comes to exploring the romance, so it's hard to blame either of them for The Wedding Date's failures. Formulas are not inherently bad in this sort of motion picture, but, even with a connect-the-dots story, it's still necessary to develop characters in which the audience will have a rooting interest. We have to desperately want them to get together, regardless of the obstacles. That's not the case here. At best, we're marginally invested in Kat and Nick's interaction, and the big payoff, such as it is, is ho-hum.

The chief pleasure of any competently made romantic comedy is the vicarious thrill of experiencing the mutual, inevitable attraction between the leads. Screen love isn't the same as real love, but, in a medium like cinema that thrives on fantasy, it's the next best thing. It's a shame that The Wedding Date misses so many of the details, and, as a result, fails to bring us a romance worth sharing. Ultimately, this effort has the stale taste of a made-for-TV movie that found its way into multiplexes along with the fake popcorn butter. In scope, intent, and execution, it comes up small. Even as a chick flick counterprogrammed against the Super Bowl, this motion picture isn't likely to find an appreciable or appreciative audience. With its lack of heart and smarts, it will disappoint all but the most undemanding of romantic comedy fans.

Wedding Date, The (United States, 2005)

Director: Clare Kilner
Cast: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jack Davenport, Sarah Parish, Jeremy Sheffield, Peter Egan, Holland Taylor
Screenplay: Dana Fox
Cinematography: Oliver Curtis
Music: Blake Neely
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:25
U.S. Release Date: 2005-02-04
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Nudity, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1