Fri, Mar 17, 2006 - Page 16 News List

'Date Movie' revels in stereotypes

A `Scary Movie' approach is taken to this spoof of romantic comedies, with slightly smarter, consistently amusing and definitely just as disgusting results

By Bob Strauss  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

A good understanding of popular culture is needed to fully appreciate this movie.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX MOVIES

Still nursing that Valentine's Day hangover? Date Movie is the cure for you.

The brain- (and lower-placed organs-) child of two members of the Scary Movie writing team, Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, this travesty of romantic comedy conventions benefits, apparently, from no Wayanses in the room.

The humor is revulsion-based and depends on the most super-ficial familiarity with pop culture, just like the horror-spoof franchise. But maybe because Seltzer (who directed) and Friedberg (a producer) are a wee bit more sophisticated than the rest of the Scary gang, or maybe just because movie love stories offer a lot more to thrash than already self-parodying fright flicks do, Date Movie gets more laughs per mile out of obvious jokes.

One other thing helps, too. Alyson Hannigan, who went this way in a number of American Pie movies, is a talented deadpanner whose likability glows through even the crudest indignities. And boy, is that star quality put to the test here.

She stars as Julia Jones (think Bridget Roberts), a grotesquely overweight and hygiene-challenged love monkey who isn't about to let her physical repulsiveness stand in the way of finding Mr. Right. The rest of the world is on a different wavelength, though, and after a combined Extreme Makeover/Pimp My Ride sequence, she's ready to win The Bachelor -- Desperate Edition sendup.

Then it's time for the film to stop making fun of reality TV and take on some movies. Though the newly hot Julia and her yummy fiance Grant Funkyerdoder (game British newcomer Adam Campbell) are clearly made for each other, there are, of course, complications.

She comes from a family so multicultural that every member of it, including each biological child, is a different race. His parents are Jewish caricatures played by the incalculably gentile Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge. Great as it is to see someone make fun of the cheap ethnic humor that fuels such unaccountable hits as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Meet the Fockers, you kind of wish that Date Movie would attack this offensive stereotype-mongering with the same wicked zeal that it does with its dirty-toenail and projectile zit-popping gags.

Film Notes:

Date Movie

Directed by: Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

Starring: Alyson Hannigan (Julia Jones), Adam Campbell (Grant Funckyerdoder), Adam Campbell (Grant Funkyerdoder), Jennifer Coolidge (Roz Funckyerdoder) Tony Cox (Hitch)

Running time: 83 minutes

Taiwan Release: Today


Anyway, the parent problem is nothing compared to Grant's, um, best friend and former lover, a pneumatic blond man-eater named Andy (Australian pop star Sophie Monk). Julia and Andy's rivalry leads to sabotage, fake impromptu sing-alongs and totally off-target-genre Kill Bill parodies.

OK, maybe Date Movie isn't that much better than the Scary ones. Maybe I just hate dumb movie romances more than I do bad fright flicks. Whatever, I laughed a lot at this thing. And I didn't feel as stupid for doing it as maybe I should have.

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