In 10 Words or Less
More parody per pound than your average movie
Loves: Parodies, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge
Likes: Alyson Hannigan
Dislikes: Stupid movies, Scary Movie wannabes
Hates: That I can't sell my romantic comedy script
The art of the full-length movie parody has been on a slow, steady slide down the mountain since hitting its peak with Airplane, raising our hopes with The Naked Gun and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and crashing head-first into gross-out jokes with Scary Movie. The latest movie to besmirch parody's good name is Date Movie, which aims to parody romantic comedies, but ends up trying to make jokes about any recent pop culture reference that more than 10 people know.
The film's central story follows Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan), a rather rotund woman, who's looking for love. Of course, the only way she can find it is to change herself entirely. But once she finds Grant, her handsome English man (Adam Campbell), she has to deal with their families' incompatibility, Grant's sexy old flame (Sophie Monk) and the usual misunderstandings. Along the way, the film attempts to cram wall-to-wall references to movies and TV, whether they make sense or not, and usually, they don't.
One of the film's obvious weaknesses is the lack of available material. There's only a small amount of popular "date movies" out there that are memorable enough to parody, which limits the film to a select few items of source material to choose from, forcing it to go to the well again and again. Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers makes up a good 50% of the film's inspiration, with a handful of other films thrown in. After that, the movie goes off the Rom-Com track and starts pulling from Star Wars, Kill Bill and even commercials. It probably points to a larger problem for parody films, and that's the lack of shared experience in today's culture thanks to the many choices we have.
Though the film is mostly boring and far from funny, unless gross-out jokes are your cup of tea, a few actors come away looking good, including Monk, who plays her bombshell role to the hilt, and Tony Cox (Bad Santa), who is consistently funny as a relationship expert. Hannigan was a good choice to play the lead here, as she is reminiscent of every sunshiney, non-glamorous romantic female lead, and Campbell does a good job poking fun at the idea of the English gentleman. If only they had some good material to work with. Even Eddie Griffin, who plays Julia's Greek father (tells you something, huh?), and Fred Willard and Jennifer Coolidge, standing in for the Focker parents, don't generate the laughs they normally do.
In the end, the movie is more like a drinking game than a film ("Oooh...Rize reference! Drink!"), but mercifully, it's a short one. The problems here could probably be summed up in the Napoleon Dynamite "parody." The character is in the movie for approximately one minute, has nothing to do with romantic comedies, and yet is featured in the film's trailer and on the box cover. In essence, he doesn't make sense, isn't important, and is a waste of space and time. Like this movie.
Date Movie is available in two different versions, a rated edition and an unrated version. Both are one-disc releases, packed in standard keepcases, without inserts. This review is written about the unrated DVD. The disc features an animated anamorphic widescreen main menu, which offers options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages, view special features and check out Fox' promotional "Inside Look" trailer collection. The language options include an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and Spanish and French 2.0 surround options, while subtitles are available in English and French, along with English closed captioning.
The quality seen in this film's anamorphic widescreen transfer is rather spotty, with some scenes looking crisp in detail and vivid in color, while others are soft and dull. When it's at its best, the disc is as good as any recent release, but when down on its luck, it looks a bit better than network TV, with some noticeable digital artifacts. This is an oddly out-of-character release for Fox.
The English 5.1 track, a standard for comedy films, features some occasional musical enhancement and some minor atmospheric sound, but it's a strong center-channel presentation for the most part. The dialogue is solid and clear, while the sound effects and music are well reproduced as well.
Fox has loaded up this DVD with extras, but the question is, are they worth the space it takes to print them on the back of the box. The extras start with not one, not two, but three feature-length audio commentaries. You'd think for a movie that barely stretches past an hour in length, there wouldn't be so much to talk about. Truthfully, there isn't, a fact that's painfully obvious during the first track with writer/director Aaron Seltzer and writer Jason Friedberg. They don't seem too excited as they joke with each other about the movie in a self-deprecating way. Unfortunately, that kind of humor only works if other people think you're actually good. The other problem is they weren't given the Fox Legal Department rules of commentaries, which results in a ton of bleeps that leave the track a choppy mess.
The next track brings together some of the cast, including Hannigan, Campbell, Monk, Valery Ortiz and Cox. The tone is light, and they seem to be having fun, though they don't have much to share outside of a few stories about the production. The best part of the track is the references to those Fox Legal rules, as they actually read part of the list, and joke about it throughout.
Also knowledgeable of the list are Scott Foundas (Variety) and Bob Strauss (L.A. Daily News), who were brought in for what the package describes as the "Anti-Commentary. Basically, these two critics talk about the movie and why it is so bad. I always hoped to see a commentary like this, and thankfully, they were allowed to say what they wanted, though I think they pulled their punches a bit. Even so, it's a solid dissection of what's wrong with the film. The commentary actually has a better joke at the end than anything that's in the movie.
Another alternate audio track is up next, this time taking the form of an obnoxious laugh track. The idea is certainly a unique and cute one, and it plays like any bad sitcom laugh track, with the ridiculous applause and "ooohs". But if you can watch this film again with this track, you could sit through anything.
The "On Dating" featurette (4:23) stitches together interviews with Griffin, Monk, Campbell, Hannigan and Willard from the film's press junket, to create a piece on bad dates. Since they aren't talking about the movie and are just having fun, it's actually not a bad piece, especially when Griffin and Monk are talking. The shorter "Fun with Casting" runs just under two minutes, and shows some amusing clips from the film's stars' auditions.
Fox offers up quite possibly the best way to watch this film with "The Quickie." In just six minutes and 25 seconds, you can watch the entire film, sped up, and slowed down for some of the more memorable jokes, some of which have oddly been changed from the real film. If you want to keep your friends, offer them the chance to experience this film in this less painful way.
Twelve deleted, extended or alternate scenes are provided, which can be viewed on their own or in an 18-minute bulk pack. Most are pointless extensions of scenes in the movie, though the longer scenes with Monk are funny and sexy, and an extended "krumpin'" scene is interesting mainly because of the incredible dancing. A 2:39 gag reel is also included, but it's not very funny.
"Romantic Screensavers" is probably the most pointless extra here, as it's two clips of so-called romantic backgrounds: a fireplace and a beach. What you're supposed to do with them, I do not know. ("Baby, hold on...let me get the Date Movie DVD so I can set the mood. Wait, where are you going?") They are challenged for the pointless title by a silly game inspired by a scene in the film called "Andy's Cherry Stem Surprise." Answer four silly questions about the movie and you get to view a special CGI'd version of the scene.
Campbell is back in an 18-minute special from the Fox Movie Channel, "Making a Spoof." The bit pokes fun at the video diaries of a big-name director whose recent blockbuster is parodied in Date Movie. Campbell has fun with the gag, but it runs out of steam early.
The disc finally wraps with three parody trailers, five "internet clips," the international trailer and a soundtrack commercial, under the banner of "The Hard Sell." According to the box, there was also supposed to be "Andy's Poolside Extended Dailies (Yes, She's in a Bikini)," but I can't find them. There are Andy poolside scenes in the extended scenes, but these are listed separately on the box.
The Bottom Line
Like a commercial-free episode of "SNL," Date Movie is a scattershot blend of references and parodies, and will appeal only to moviegoers who surrender themselves to their basest instincts, and even they'll be bored for much of the film's short run-time. The good thing is, it's mostly forgettable, so you can move on with your life quickly. The DVD is decent in terms of its presentation, and a ton of extras are included, which would have great for a good movie, but here it serves more to make up for the main feature. This is the kind of movie you're best served waiting for on HBO, though the critics' commentary makes it worth a rental.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.