[box cover]

Date Movie: Unrated Edition

At first, movie parodies may seem deceptively easy to cobble together. With an onslaught of silly pop-cultural gags at the forefront, potentially tricky elements of plot and character are lesser priorities and conveniently cribbed from other, original movies that are already part of the cultural consciousness. Any spoof half as successful as the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classics Airplane, Top Secret or The Naked Gun is bound to deliver a wealthy share of humor to offset its misses, right? Wrong. Writer-director Aaron Seltzer proves just how tough the parody genre can be in Date Movie (2006) by not only summoning barely enough gags to populate a 75-min. movie, but also taking the few gags that do work and belaboring them until brief amusement transmogrifies into searing pain. In this wayward send-up of movie romances, Alyson Hannigan stars as Julia Jones, an overweight waitress whose inner beauty attracts the Hugh Grant-ish Grant (Adam Campbell). After a magically slimming makeover, Julia snares Grant and the two begin planning their wedding, bringing together their wacky families and also Grant's slutty ex (Sophie Monk), who wants him back.

Date Movie pays extended homage to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Hitch, the Meet the Parents franchise, and My Best Friend's Wedding, with less substantial nods to Shallow Hal, Pretty Woman, the TV series "The Bachelor," Bridget Jones's Diary and others, plus additional references to general pop phenomena like Napoleon Dynamite and The Lord of the Rings. Seltzer seems to be making a career out of half-assed Zucker-worship, co-writing 1997's Spy Hard and the first in the blockbuster horror-spoofing Scary Movie series (both with co-writer Jason Friedberg, who also shares the shame of Date Movie's lackluster laughs), but shows even less acuity for the craft as a director than he does as a writer. While most successful parodies lampoon otherwise serious subjects (like disasters, espionage, serial killers, etc.), Date Movie starts with the handicap of trying to spoof other comedies, and as a result usually settles for crass revisions of its subjects' original jokes, and rarely bests them for humor. This unfortunate obstacle further aggravates Date Movie's weakest link: its dearth of material. If it weren't for 12 gag-free minutes of closing credits, Date Movie would clock in at a mere 73 minutes, but the experience is by no means brisk. The picture is essentially a short film padded to feature-length by Seltzer's excruciating proclivity for drawing out decent throwaway gags for minutes-on-end until the sheer unfunniness of the execution overwhelms the conceptual promise, if any. Often, this padding includes scenery-chewing mugging — fatally undermining the deadpan successes of the Zucker model — telegraphed reverses, belabored jibes at other movie stars (an extended sequence, for example, reiterates the nearly 10-year-old punchline that Jennifer Lopez has a notable backside), and clumsy sight gags. That every single joke in Date Movie is stretched until weary is made even more exasperating by the wealth of more serious, parody-ripe targets that Seltzer and Friedberg overlook, like über-chick flicks The Notebook, Titanic, and any number of disease-of-the-week tearjerkers starting with the mother of all them all, Love Story (or, for pop culture posterity, Brokeback Mountain). If anything, Date Movie should be bursting with too much material but for its creators' lack of enterprise. Sadly, Hannigan, who sorely needs a good movie role to expand on her charming TV appearances, doesn't find the material here to advance her much beyond the dismal American Wedding. Also with Fred Willard, Eddie Griffin (whose "Greek" hair and eyebrows are the movie's most understated and effective gag), Carmen Electra, Tom Lenk, and Jennifer Coolidge.

Fox's Date Movie: Unrated Edition (it still feels safely PG-13) is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Includes a filmmaker commentary by Seltzer and Friedberg; a cast commentary by Hannigan, Campbell, and Monk; and an "Anti-Commentary" with movie critics Scott Foundas and Bob Strauss — an idea that more interesting movies should emulate, as the pair eventually run out things to say about Date Movie. Also on board are 12 deleted/extended/alternate scenes, extended dailies, interviews with cast members about their own dating histories, an actually amusing "making-of" spoof of Peter Jackson's incessant self-documentation, audition tapes, a reduction of the entire movie into six minutes, an optional (very optional) laugh track, and several trailers and other promotional items. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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