Ah, the ennui of the Hollywood hunk. You see, when you’re Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel), star of blockbuster action, period and romance flicks and sort of an all-around moviegoer’s wet dream, life really isn’t all that fantastic. Sure, he’s out with a different starlet every night, lives in a house that’s like a 21st century Xanadu, and worshipped by magazine-reading women across the land, but when he meets Rosalee (Kate Bosworth) he realizes just how empty it all is. Of course, he only goes out on a date with Rosalee, a Piggly Wiggly cashier from a dinky West Virginia town, because she won a contest, but that doesn’t stop him from chucking everything and, mere days after their meet-cute, show up at the Piggly Wiggly, saying he wants some of her goodness (she’s a small town girl, see, with all the decency that implies) to rub off on him. “He wants your a*s to rub off on him,” says Pete (Topher Grace), her manager, lifelong friend and secret admirer. What’s a pert blonde to do?
Well, in the happy but complacent “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” Rosalee makes sure to smile a lot and ignore every massive hint that Pete hurls her way, and that’s about it. It’s an egregiously underwritten role, even by the standards of teen films, which should be no surprise, as this movie was directed by Robert Luketic, of “Legally Blonde” fame. That was a film with pretty much nothing going for it but the furiously perky Reese Witherspoon (and a near-insane belief in the power of the color pink), but while both Bosworth and Witherspoon play similarly too-good-to-be-true characters, Kate Bosworth is no Reese Witherspoon, a fact which hasn’t stopped people from putting her in the starring role.
As the slick sharpster to Bosworth’s heart-of-gold country girl, Duhamel gives a much more believable performance. Playing a slightly edgier version of the character he plays on the somehow-not-yet-cancelled show “Las Vegas,” he’s strangely magnetic in the manner of the guy who, in high school, was star quarterback, student body president and prom king, and was yet liked by everyone across the social spectrum, almost against their will. Maybe it’s the teeth, every time he and Bosworth smile at each other, it’s liable to cause blindness in moviegoers sitting too close to the screen.
Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes make for a fantastic team as Hamilton’s managerial team, Hollywood to the core and utterly deaf to his claims of new-found love in bumpkin land; it’s an act they could take on the road if there was still a vaudeville circuit. Topher Grace is handed what few good lines there are, and he runs with them, like a funnier version of the kind of vest-friend role Eric Stoltz might have played back in the 1980s, but no matter what any of the supporting players do, it’s not sufficient to save the film.
Straining for the aw-factor so hard that it hurts, “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” takes a workable premise wrapped inside a mostly-talented cast and piles it all on poor Bosworth’s shoulders; it’s just not fair, you see how narrow they are.