A review of “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

 

 

Tad Hamilton has crowd-pleaser written all over it, thanks to a charming turn by It Girl Kate Bosworth.

Bosworth is aw-shucks small-towner Rosalee Futch, a Piggly-Wiggly grocery clerk hailing from backwoods Frazier’s Bottom, West Virginia.  Life is a bowl full of cherries for Rosalee, who cheerfully navigates the wonderful world of checkout while hanging with lifelong pals Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Pete (Topher Grace).  And oh yes, Pete is hopelessly (and secretly) in love with the clueless beauty.

On the flip side of the planet, Hollywood hunk Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) is between million dollar paydays and looking for a way to spit-polish his image.  His pushier-than-thou agent (Nathan Lane) and patronizing manager (Sean Hayes) concoct a brilliant scheme to kick-start the hallelujah chorus: a squeaky-clean online “Win a Date” contest benefiting a national children’s charity.

Heaven is just a mouse-click away for Rosalee, who wins the dream date with her shallow idol and wings her way to the errant City of the Angels.  Naturally Tad is won over by Rosalee’s amber-waves-of-grain wholesomeness, succumbing to the crazy notion that there may be a little virtue in it for him.

Back on the home front Pete is consumed with jealousy; afraid to bare his feelings (it’s been ten years, dude!) and driven mad by thoughts of his lady love falling for Tad.  Can Pete set his angst aside and pop the big question?  Can a country girl cut it in sin city?  Is Tad’s act just that? 

Reality check: Tad is one big shaky premise -- to say I’ve seen it before is a gross understatement.  But even the most clichéd narrative can be cannily augmented by fun performances and a solid script treatment.  Tad offers both in bold doses, bypassing its conspicuous flaws with appealing interpretations by a pearly-white and chaste Rosalee, genuinely flummoxed Tad, dufusly desperate Pete, and the outrageously funky Cathy. 

The humor is punchy with panache; blessed with a tongue-in-cheek release that suggests Tad isn’t taking itself too seriously. Grace wins best of show -- offering emotional heft and honoring his stately name by delivering the corny climactic speech with wry dignity.  Sweet and light, and just what the doctor ordered.