The Wedding Date

(2005) * 1/2 Pg-13
80 min. Universal Pictures. Director: Clare Kilner. Cast: Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Jack Davenport, Sarah Parish.

It's a blessing that The Wedding Date doesn't try too hard, but it's a curse that it doesn't try hard enough. An American-British hybrid with commercial designs on both shores, The Wedding Date flatly depicts an affronted American single juggling a no-count ex and the male prostitute she hires to make him jealous during the English country wedding of her—horrors!—younger, looser sister. If this sounds to you like unsavory material for a romantic comedy, you're right.

The Wedding Date derives from Brit Elizabeth Young's chick-lit novel Asking for Trouble, but this romantic fantasy evinces no signs of logical characterization or credible plotting. Debra Messing of TV's Will and Grace sports a Jennifer Aniston 'do as Kat, the single gal who hires professional smoothie Nick Mercer. Nick's going rate for a weekend of his company is $6,000, not counting a potential intercourse bonus. As it turns out, she's really paying for the wisdom rolling off the tongue of this "Yoda of escorts." Nick on weddings: "In the real world, they're an excuse to drink excessively and say things you shouldn't." Teach us, oh wise one.

Of course, the "simple business transaction" results in Kat falling head over heels for her attractive escort and unaccountably sparking his interest in return. No one—not Fox, not Kilner, not Messing, not Mulroney—even tries to make clear why Nick would fall for Kat, a petty mess still obsessed with her old boyfriend. Nick never seems less than smugly complacent in his career, until the moment he arbitrarily decides he loves Kat. Even animal attraction isn't enough to make the pieces fit, since Messing's Kat so clearly needs Nick more than he needs her. Mulroney's pulse is hardly even detectable as he ironically half-smiles his way through his preposterous musings.

The Wedding Date begins on a relatively trim and sprightly note, as the bantering couple keeps each other on his or her respective toes, but Kilner, who helmed the similarly underwhelming How to Deal, rapidly squanders that sexy goodwill, leaving matters entirely up to a cast that includes old hand Holland Taylor (the ne plus ultra of viperish mothers) and Jack Davenport of Pirates of the Caribbean. Bless their hearts, but neither they nor comic sweetheart Messing can, in 80 empty-calorie minutes, salvage enough substance to justify the price of this movie ticket.

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