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Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!

With a title and premise lifted straight from the frothy teen romance tradition of the '50s and '60s, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004) was no doubt intended to be sort of a Bye Bye Birdie for the next generation. The stories are similar enough: In Birdie, a famous singer in need of a PR boost travels to tiny Sweet Apple, Ohio, to kiss his number-one fan — a wholesome small town girl — goodbye before heading off to the Army; in Tad Hamilton, a famous movie star in need of a PR boost travels to tiny Fraser's Bottom, West Virginia, after he's smitten by his number-one fan, a wholesome small town girl. The movies' parallels go deeper, too, as both are the kind of harmless, genial entertainment that's easily forgotten (sorry, Birdie fans, but it hardly falls in the pantheon of truly memorable movie musicals). What Win a Date with Tad Hamilton has going for it can really be summed up in two words: Topher Grace. As Pete, the sarcastic Piggly Wiggly manager who's carrying a serious torch for his co-worker/best friend/Tad Hamilton date-winner Rosalee (Kate Bosworth), the "That '70s Show" star proves again that he's far more talented than his projects credit him. Grace makes Pete's heartbreak almost palpable as the hometown guy watches his girl fall at the feet of shiny-toothed Tad (Josh Duhamel); almost as painful as watching his Rosie slip away from him is Pete's knowledge that she's most likely headed for heartbreak of her own. Bosworth, unfortunately, is a little too pretty and glamorous to be convincing as a common small-town girl (besides, where's her West Virginia accent?) When Rosalee travels to L.A., we're meant to sympathize with her as she marvels at the buffed, polished, selfish denizens of La La Land; instead, all we see is how easily she blends in with the crowd. Erstwhile soap star Duhamel is convincing as bad boy Tad; he gives the character just a little bit of mocking self-awareness, and it's much appreciated. Among the supporting cast, Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes recycle the same Hollywood agent and manager stereotypes that everyone's seen before, but the often-underappreciated Gary Cole (he played evil boss Lumbergh in Office Space) is laugh-out-loud funny as Rosalee's father, Henry. Eager to impress Tad, Henry embraces the movie biz like a true fanatic, offering the star chocolate martinis, talking knowingly about box-office grosses, and sporting industry T-shirts that tout Project Greenlight and the Academy Awards. If only he had won the date, the movie might have been much more interesting… DreamWorks' DVD presents Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! in a strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with equally solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English 2.0 Surround and French 5.1 tracks are also available, as are English, Spanish, and French subtitles). Among the fairly standard list of features are cast and crew bios, production notes, trailers, a photo gallery, 16 deleted/alternate scenes, and an eight-min. gag reel, which offers a couple of guffaw-worthy moments (the chocotini outtake alone is worth sitting through everything else). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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