The Wedding Date
Watching the trailer to “The Wedding Date” is a little like reading a pamphlet describing experimental surgery: it sounds pretty, but you just know it’s going to be painful regardless. It’s the first cinema vehicle for “Will & Grace” star Debra Messing, and she acquits her role well enough for there to be a second. Hottie Dermot Mulroney returns to the inevitable wedding romantic comedy after seven years; he’s probably best known for his 1997 role opposite Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Taking a cue from his past co-star, here he plays a male escort to Messing’s painfully-single maid-of-honor in a drama surrounding a British nuptial – as a result, “The Wedding Date” comes on like a cross between “Pretty Woman” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral”… but given the lackluster emulations found within, perhaps the movie should have been called “Four Bridesmaids and a Hookah.”
Messing plays Kat, who remains terrorized by being left at the alter – and who is about to confront her old fiancée at the wedding of her sister in England. To make her jilting ex-lover squirm, she hires callboy Nick (Mulroney) to escort her to the festivities. It doesn’t take long for Mulroney to grab the attention of all the bridesmaids as he alternatively displays charisma and flesh, for him and Kat to fall for each other, and for the audience to wonder what’s currently playing on HBO.
The plotlines are predictable, almost criminal in their blatant homage to the movies listed above. But the film has neither the pluck of “Pretty Woman” nor the inbred humor of “Four Weddings.” This is what happens when Americans cross the pond in an attempt to imitate the quirky English humor that has cultivated such favor from critics worldwide. But British director Claire Kilner, whose freshman work in “How to Deal” was met with bare equanimity from audiences, managed to film this movie in and around London and still create a sub-par, pedestrian Hollywood knockoff.
Credit Messing and Mulroney with enough acting chops to pull from the Dana Fox’s bland script performances that are largely better than the film they’re in – although one of the most serious flaws in the film is Kilner’s inability to correctly manage the trajectory of her main characters’ attraction to each other. There are too many moments in the film that teeter too closely to the edge of good taste, threatening a descent into maudlin sentimentality – in a sense, these moments provide the film’s true suspense, since after paying $10 to watch this bizarrely-affected blend of American Puritanism and British irrationality play out, you’d probably rather not be chased from the theatre before the credits roll.
What’s really troublesome, however, is the film’s utter lack of respect for reality. As a highly-paid escort, Nick’s determination to give it all up for love is suspect at best; what the hell job is he going to get with those credentials? And what is Kat’s family going to say when they ultimately discover the ruse to which he was so complicit? It’s a real mind-bender, let me tell you. Too bad they didn’t try mixing in a third film – “The Wedding Planner” – because this anemic little ceremony could have really used one.