The winner is Rosalee Futch (Kate Bosworth; Blue Crush), a cashier and grocery bagger at a Piggly Wiggly in Fraziers Bottom, West Virginia. She's one of Tad's most fiercely loyal fans, and she and her pal-slash-co-worker Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) fawn over their screen idol, daydreaming about what he must be like in person. Frequently but grudgingly along for the ride is Pete Monash (Topher Grace; That '70s Show), who has an unwavering crush on Rosie, yet hasn't mustered the nerve to tell her how he feels or even that he's bound for a move to Richmond. Pete does fill Rosie in on some of the Jedi mindtricks to expect when she's spirited off to L.A., and Tad quickly tears through every page of that rulebook on their date. The more he gets to know her during their brief time together, the more Tad finds that he needs that kind of moral center to stay afloat in this overly-competitive business. Just as Pete has a returned Rosie in a Piggly Wiggly backroom, ready to pour out his heart, in walks Tad. He's decided to stay in West Virginia for a while to soak up some of Rosie's wholesomeness, and just to prove he has the best of intentions, Tad insists that he wants to keep their relationship strictly platonic. Although Tad is genuine, it doesn't go over well with Rosie, who really starts to fall for him, or the insanely jealous Pete.
The meat of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is an average romantic comedy, and the two characters who get the most screentime -- Tad and Rosie -- are by far the least interesting. Tad's fish out of water angle, the romantic triangle pitting the shy hometown kid against the overblown celebrity for the heart of the wholesome lady fair...yeah, you've seen it before. Pete even mocks this sort of predictabity in the first few minutes. Thankfully, this is a movie that's really buoyed by its supporting cast. Well, and Topher Grace, who's second-billed but spends enough time on the sidelines that it's easy to forget that he is a central character. Grace is only just now really starting to build much of a filmography outside of That '70s Show, and if Tad Hamilton is any indication, he ought to have a pretty solid career ahead of him. He's the type of talent that's almost effortlessly funny, and a character with Pete's dry sense of humor and tendency towards overreaction shouldn't exactly be alien to him. The supporting cast also includes turns by two actors I wouldn't typically chalk myself up as fans of, Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes, who are used sparingly but kill almost every time they're on-screen. The same goes for Gary Cole, an actor I am a fan of, who plays Rosie's pop. His attempts at bonding with Tad, spouting off Variety-speak while clad in industry T-shirts, made for some of the funniest moments in the entire movie. An eye-rolling chauffeur, hard-working staff of varying ethnicity indeterminate to Tad, a priest with an impressive familiarity of stale pick-up lines, a skeevy motel clerk, a heavily-tattoed bartender with eyes for Pete...it's these sorts of characters that make the movie worth watching. It's also nice to see a sweet comedy that doesn't fall prey to the banal humor that's littered these sorts of movies over the past five years.
I say this purely theoretically, but Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! would probably play a lot better if watched with a wife or girlfriend. (Seeing as how I'm a reviewer for a DVD website, obviously it's outside the realm of possibility for me to be able to test this myself.) I wasn't engrossed by the dominant romantic angle, something I can probably attribute to that pesky Y-chromosome, though I can see that appealing to the fairer sex. The supporting characters had me laughing out loud more frequently than I do throughout most comedies, and to accomplish that in a romantic comedy is a pretty impressive feat. Despite being an ideal date flick, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! didn't really tear up the box office when it was released theatrically earlier this year. Maybe that accounts for the fast turnaround, less than three months from its silver screen debut to DVD, and the light extras on this disc.
Video: Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is getting two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. The version reviewed here is, predictably enough, in the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the disc is enhanced for widescreen displays. The cover art trumpets the fact that Tad Hamilton is "from the director of Legally Blonde", and that's not a bad point of reference to use. The vivid palette practically leaps a couple square miles off the screen, and detail remains rock-solid throughout. Not having had much time to collect dust between its brief theatrical run and this DVD, there aren't any specks or other print flaws to be found. The only thing separating this presentation from approaching perfection is the grainy haze in a few scenes, particularly the wide exteriors. This almost certainly can be traced back to the original photography rather than anything unique to this DVD. Still, if you skip past those shots, and there are really only a few of them throughout the entire length of the movie, the razor-sharp, incomparably colorful Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is a great DVD to use to strut your home theater's stuff.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (448Kbps) isn't quite showcase material, though. Insert your standard issue DVD review description of a typical comedy mix. Pretty much everything is anchored front 'n center, and the surrounds rarely roar to life other than to reinforce music and provide light ambiance. The score by Ed Shearmur comes through really well, offering up a healthy low-frequency punch and some nice separation in the front mains. Pretty ordinary, but "pretty ordinary" anymore still ain't bad. A bunch of other audio options are also included -- an English stereo surround track, a six-channel French dub, closed captions, and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: Although there are a lot of deleted and extended scenes on this disc -- sixteen in total, spanning more than 22 minutes -- pretty much all of them were justifiably lopped off. The alternate opening seems really stilted in comparison to the much more effective introductory sequence in the final cut, f'r instance, and although Sean Hayes gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie when he rants about having to take a commercial flight to L.A., expanding that to four times its original length...? Not so much. Also mercifully excised was a subplot involving a stalker played by Paris Hilton, who gives more convincing performances in her amateur home recordings versus a glossy studio flick like this.
The gag reel, which runs just under eight and a half minutes, fares a lot better. The expected flubbed lines are present in full force, but the way Topher Grace flails around sets them apart from similar collections on other DVDs. Some of the goofing around on-set is hysterical, particularly alternate spins on Tad's scene in the bathroom stall. Other snippets include Kate Bosworth shoving way too much junk food in her mouth, an out-of-control Steadicam, Kate showing off her temporarily hideously malformed ears, and Josh Duhamel puttering around on a bite-size bike. Both the deleted footage and the gag reel are letterboxed, though not enhanced for widescreen TVs, and they're also closed captioned.
The rest of the extras are pretty standard, beginning with a photo gallery of thirty production stills. "Cast" offers brief bios for Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Gary Cole, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sean Hayes, and Nathan Lane, and "Filmmakers" does the same for some of the talent behind the camera. A few pages of "Production Notes" appear to have been lifted verbatim from a press kit, and finally, "Sneak Peeks" offers a trailer for Dreamworks' live-action take on Peter Pan and a plug for the Tad Hamilton soundtrack. The DVD opens with a trailer for Shrek 2 and, for all I know, other Dreamworks releases, but I skipped past 'em and don't really feel all that interested in compiling a complete list.
The disc comes cradled in a keepcase, but it's one of those really annoying ones with the external clasps that Universal has become so smitten with recently. I invariably wind up trying to pry the case open before remembering that there's that pair of clasps to unhook first. I get that the idea's to discourage shoplifting, but I still find it to be kind of a pain. So anyway, 16x9 animated menus, twenty-four chapter stops, no insert.
Conclusion: Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is a sweet, cute, and fairly funny romantic comedy that would be a perfect rental for a date. It's not something I'd be particularly interested in watching by myself and more than likely won't be seeing a second spin in my DVD player anytime soon. Although it's nothing that'll be reverently looked upon in years to come, taken strictly for what it is, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! is worth tracking down at the video store.