Wedding Date, The
My Best Friend's Picture Perfect Wedding, er, I mean The Wedding Date may appear to be another retread. But the film is surprisingly engaging--mostly--as it follows a tried and true romantic comedy formula of girl hires guy to be her boyfriend and falls for him. We are suckers for that stuff, aren't we?
Weddings--they're always fun. The tension, the drunkenness, the cold feet, the wacky family dynamics. Good times. For single gal Kat Ellis (Debra Messing), going to her sister's wedding in merry ole England also means hiring one of New York's premier male escorts, Nick Mercer (Dermot Mulroney), to pose as her new boyfriend. Kat's primarily goal is to make her ex-fiancé Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield), who dumped her two years ago, jealous. Yes, her solution crosses a few morally dubious lines, plus costs her a tidy $6,000, which she had to drain from her 401K. But no matter. The insightful and charismatic Nick is a showstopper, ''the Yoda of escorts,'' convincing everyone that he and Kat are madly in love, including Kat. She's soon feeling things she's never before felt. Well, duh. He's, like, the perfect guy--that's his job. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure how this is going to turn out.
Will & Grace's Debra Messing is quite appealing in her first feature starring role, but she really isn't straying too far from her dizzy, Emmy-winning alter TV ego. Kat is a glorified Grace: smart, attractive but insecure, a little klutzy and certainly not afraid to be seen with smudged mascara and bad hair. The coiffed and well-manicured Mulroney, on the other hand, gets to be a smooth-talkin' hunk through the whole film. After playing a mullet-haired idiot in About Schmidt, it must have been refreshing for Mulroney. Kat's no-nonsense mother, played by the always-good character actress Holland Taylor, and her self-absorbed sister Amy, played by Catch Me If You Can's Amy Adams, do their best not to fall into the ''dysfunctional family'' clichés. But it's the Brits in the cast--including Jack Davenport (The Talented Mr. Ripley) as Amy's earnest husband-to-be Edward, Sheffield as Ed's best mate, the aforementioned cad Jeffery, and Sarah Parish as Kat and Amy's madcap cousin T.J.--that add the right amount of Four Weddings and a Funeral joie de vivre.
The Wedding Date is formulaic and predictable, but here's what it does right: From the start, director Clare Kilner (How To Deal) doesn't bog the film down with a lot of back story, i.e. superfluous scenes of Kat depressed, talking to her friends about hiring an escort, calling the escort, etc. Instead, as she's nervously rushing around, getting ready to fly to London, we see the progression: photos of Kat and the ex lying around, an article from a magazine about Nick on the bed, and, most importantly, Nick's voice on an answering machine assuring her it'll all be OK. Kilner wisely chooses to concentrate on the wedding, which has all the romanticism and comic elements built right in. Pumped up by engaging performances, you tend to forgive all the contrivances and manipulations because, darn it, you're just having a pleasant time.
Yes, The Wedding Date has been done many times before, and you won't be too surprised by the outcome. But hey, watching two unlikely but terribly appealing folks get together is what all us romantic comedy aficionados seem to love.