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The Baltimore Sun

Movie review: 'The Wedding Date'


1½ stars (out of 4)

Weddings may make for dubious marriages, but they often inspire entertaining movies--as any number of examples, from Robert Altman's "A Wedding" to "Four Weddings and a Funeral" to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," remind us.

"The Wedding Date" is an unfortunate exception: a tossed bouquet full of dead flowers and bad jokes that belongs in the nearest trash receptacle.

This British-set romantic comedy about a troubled nuptial celebration, with "Will & Grace's" Debra Messing as the desperate New York-based half-sister of a greedy London bride (Amy Adams) and Dermot Mulroney as Messing's escort is like a big expensive party that goes sour almost as soon as you arrive and from which you can't escape. It's weakly conceived and blandly executed, wasteful of its cast's talent and our time.

Director Clare Kilner and writer Dana Fox obviously have seen "Four Weddings" and some of the others, and they start with the laudable goals of making us laugh and touching our hearts, employing what they think are sure-fire formulas. But despite one promising idea, they've whipped up a would-be comic souffle that's flat and tasteless.

The idea is that pert but vulnerable New Yorker Kat Ellis (Messing) would be so mortified at the thought of attending a wedding where her old boyfriend, Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield), is best man that she would hire a male escort (i.e. prostitute) for $6,000 to pose as her boyfriend. The obvious complication: Her "date," Nick Mercer (Mulroney), proves such a catch (a male "Pretty Woman") that she--and many other females present--fall for him.

Falling in love with a male hooker at a wedding may seem like a sordid premise. Remarkably, that's the one part of "Wedding Date" that does work, at least a little, because Mulroney delivers the movie's most successful, likable and reasonably comic performance. Perhaps that's because he's fresh from a really good movie wedding, in Alexander Payne's "About Schmidt," in which he played the doofus bridegroom; here he switches gears, turns on a mixed Cary Grant-Jude Law mode and delivers charm and a lot of good reaction shots.

Messing's Kat is another story. However much you may like her from "Will & Grace," the TV show where she regularly scoops up hearts and prizes, you'll probably have a hard time with Kat, a kittenish heroine whose relationship with her family (English stepdad Peter Egan and American mom Holland Taylor) is hard to grasp and whose fidgety, Gidget-y mannerisms, frequent apologies and nervous seductiveness are hard to take.

Since the script never bothers to cover all the bases, we're never clear on why Kat doesn't have a male friend who could sub as her new lover or why she thinks she can get away with this--unless she plans to hire Nick or some other hooker for future family affairs.

Even more annoying are the cliched supporting roles. There's Kat's cad ex-fiancé Jeffrey (Sheffield), who's almost too bad to be true; selfish bride Amy (Adams) and her good-hearted aristo groom, Edward Fletcher-Wooten (Jack Davenport); Egan and Taylor as the supposedly staunch, witty parents; and Sarah Parish as TJ, a lusty wise-cracking friend who seems to have been whipped up from scraps of "Absolutely Fabulous" and "Sex and the City."

And the look of the movie lacks all the reasonable glamor and flash you'd expect from a production like this.

What can you say about a film whose main plot devices are the salacious social and single-bed situations Kat and Nick stumble into and the loose-lipped chicanery of villainous Jeffrey, who runs around confessing his misdeeds at madly inappropriate moments? What can you feel about a script where Nick's sophistication is established by a wisecrack about Air Supply and their weepy ballad "All Out of Love," and Kat's easy heart is established by her muttered defense of the group and its poignancy?

Good movies about weddings (or near-great ones like Altman's "Wedding") relish in character and the provocative secrets buried beneath the rituals, as well as the chance to bring together big, juicy ensemble casts. And those successes--or even isolated sequences like the climax of "The Graduate," with Benjamin screaming "Elaine!" from the church balcony--make the recipe click. But "Wedding Date" is neither good art, good entertainment nor even good trash. Luckily , "'Til death do us part" is one wedding cliché we don't have to take seriously.

"The Wedding Date"

Directed by Clare Kilner; written by Dana Fox, based on Elizabeth Young's book "Asking for Trouble"; photographed by Oliver Curtis; edited by Mary Finlay; production designed by Tom Burton; music by Blake Neely; produced by Nathalie Marciano, Michelle Chydzik Sowa, Jessica Bendinger, Paul Brooks. A Universal Pictures/Gold Circle Films release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, including dialogue).

Kat Ellis - Debra Messing
Nick Mercer - Dermot Mulroney
Amy Ellis - Amy Adams
Jeffrey - Jeremy Sheffield
Victor Ellis - Peter Egan
TJ - Sarah Parish
Edward Fletcher-Wooten - Jack Davenport

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