Ah, there's nothing like a movie title with an exclamation point at the end of it! Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! has nothing on Oliver!, Airplane!, Oklahoma! or Top Secret! (which remains, please note, the only film that features Omar Sharif in a slapstick role), but the Tad movie is lively and funny enough to check out, especially if you've had enough of all those Hobbits and Samurai and motorcycles and big fish.
The title character is played by TV hunk Josh Duhamel, currently seen opposite James Caan in Las Vegas. While he kind of downplays things on that show, here he ups the ante, turning in a lighthearted mocking of, well, movie and TV hunks. His Tad Hamilton is a hot actor, doing well among the female fan set with his dreamboat, boy-next-door image. He's seen at the beginning, splashed all over the big screen in a movie within the movie called A Good Man Is Hard to Find -- a cheesy World War II romance, not the Flannery O'Connor story. (For some reason known only to the film's writer, one of the characters is later shown -- for no reason connected to anything in the plot -- reading O'Connor's story.)
That's just one of many quirks the film features, then forgets. Another one has to do with vomiting, but there's no need to go into that here. The film has a fast and funny start, in which Tad turns out to be a wild man off-screen, something his two managers -- both named Richard Levy -- need to squelch in order to preserve his image. The story keeps hinting at taking off into some equally wild territory, but it never really does; in fact, it turns out to be rather conventional.
There is, however, some oddball fun spread throughout it.
The managers (Nathan Lane and Will & Grace's Sean Hayes) decide to keep that image intact by coming up with an Internet contest that would be the one resulting in the film's title. And wouldn't you know, two of Tad's biggest fans, Rosalee and Cathy (Kate Bosworth and Ginnifer Goodwin), enter the contest, all fresh, bubbly, wholesome, innocent and squeaky-clean - and ultra-na & iuml;ve Rosalee wins. This is not good news for Pete (Topher Grace), their manager at a Piggly Wiggly in West Virginia, since he has a long-running secret crush on Rosalee.
In the contest for her affections, there's Tad -- tall and handsome, with perfect hair and impossibly white teeth, and living a life of luxury -- and then there's Pete - all frowning and moping. At least he owns a dog.
In other words, it's no contest - except for the one that jets star-struck Rosalee off to L.A. to meet Tad. For starters, she vomits in his limo, but that's just a simple case of nerves. Not long after, Tad lays quite the original line on her: "How'd you like to come back to my place for a bit?"
She goes, then gets cold feet; he's a gentleman, so he backs off; she goes home, he gets positive press. Maybe those managers had a good plan after all.
Cut to West Virginia, where Pete is finally getting up the nerve to pop some sort of question, when ... guess who appears, fresh off the plane from L.A.? And that's where the story really starts. But there's just not all that much to it. On the surface, it's all about the pretty girl, the Hollywood hunk who tells her he wants some of her goodness to rub off on him, and the nice guy who longs for her but has no idea how to talk to her. A little deeper down, it's about communication and the lack of it -- especially in affairs of the heart. It also gives a light skewering to the idea of celebrity.
The film is best when it's funny, and some of the funniest stuff comes from Gary Cole (who's been playing the movie version of Mike Brady as Rosalee's dad). He's continually trying to impress movie star Tad, either by spouting off some Hollywood jargon he's recently read in Variety or by sporting some oh-so-Hollywood-hip T-shirts (one says "Project Greenlight," while another reads "For Your Consideration").
Things get tough for Pete when he sees "his girl" getting closer to Tad, who decides to settle in town. And the oddest few minutes come in a bathroom scene in which Pete tells Tad exactly how he feels about Rosalee. Unfortunately, there's really not that much for the actors to do, because not enough has been written for them. And not only is there no difficulty figuring out how the movie will end, but it also takes its sweet time getting there. There's just too much padding around the main story. Fortunately it's all padded by likable, easy-to-take characters.