'Date Movie': When Ho-Hum Met Silly
Saturday, February 18, 2006
If you've guffawed over the "Naked Gun" films, or "Airplane!" -- or, going even further back, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, or Buster Keaton -- you know slapstick can be as great as anything we breathlessly call high art.
"Date Movie," alas, is here to remind us that slapstick can be just plain bad. These are sight gags best appreciated with a blindfold.
Perhaps it's more apples-to-apples to compare this latest comedy to the wildly successful 2000 spoof "Scary Movie," since two of that film's six credited writers -- Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg -- are at the heart of this effort, sharing directing and writing credits. Unfortunately, "Date Movie" mimics the style of "Scary Movie" but never reaches its high (or would that be low?) notes.
Big girl Julia (Alyson Hannigan of "American Pie," porked out by CGI) is determined to lose as many of her 389 pounds as possible. She's also tired of waitressing for her "Greek" father (African American comedian Eddie Griffin) and her Indian mother (Meera Simhan). When she meets eligible British bachelor Grant Fonckyerdoder (Adam Campbell), she has a reason to slim down, which she does with the help of a love doctor named Hitch (Tony Cox). The couple get together, decide to marry, but there are many obstacles, particularly Grant's extremely hot and too-friendly "friend" (Sophie Monk).
There isn't much more story to impart, since "Date Movie" is just a series of passing allusions to "Hitch," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Meet the Fockers," TV's "Extreme Makeover," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and other romantic comedies.
Unfortunately, Seltzer and Friedberg think it's enough to reference those movies without setting themselves the challenge of topping the original gag. This reduces "Date Movie" to a laundry list of laugh lines based merely on recognition: "Oh, I remember that, 'Vote for Pedro,' huh, huh."
Is it inherently funny that (as Grant's parents) Fred Willard is in a chest wig and Hawaiian shirt, and Jennifer Coolidge has frizzy hair and a fat nose to ape Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand in "Meet the Fockers"? Or that their last name is Fonckyerdoder?
In the most famous scene of the Rob Reiner-directed 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally," Meg Ryan's Sally demonstrates over lunch to co-star Billy Crystal's Harry how easy it is to fake an orgasm. After Sally has finished moaning and groaning, a lady at another table tells her waitress, "I'll have what she's having." It's a brilliant closer to Ryan's already funny routine.
In "Date Movie," at a restaurant date with Julia, Grant starts moaning orgasmically, just like Ryan's Sally. At first, it's funny, thanks to Grant's insistent, high-pitched squeals -- along with the amusing notion that a guy could, uh, fake such a thing.
But after Grant has finished, a waitress approaches him and says, "I take it that's a yes for the pork chop." It's even more of a letdown when Julia tells the waitress, "I'll have what he's having." With each passing moment, Seltzer and Friedberg let the steam out of the scene.
As with the rest of the movie, what is meant as inspired parody becomes rote recall -- which has all the humorous zest of a court stenographer's report.
Date Movie (81 minutes at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for relentlessly crude humor and sexual innuendo.