`Win a Date with Tad Hamilton' is a predictable fairy tale romance that skates by on the cleverness of its premise and the charm of its performances. Kate Bosworth stars as Rosalee Futch, a small town girl from West Virginia who has a mad crush on a hot Hollywood stud named Tad Hamilton. One day she enters a contest on the Internet, the prize being an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to spend an evening with her dreamboat. Rosalee, of course, wins the contest and has her magic fantasy moment, whereupon she flies back home, expecting to file the experience away in her heart as the high point of her life and then continue her humdrum existence working at the local Piggly Wiggly. What Rosalee doesn't anticipate is that Tad will be so smitten with her genuine goodness and unpretentious nature that he will wind up traveling to West Virginia in order to get to know her better. Complicating matters is the fact that Rosalee's long time friend and boss, Pete, is secretly, madly in love with her and isn't about to give her up without a fight to this fancy, flashy dude from Hollywood.
Given the premise, the makers of this film could, with a bit more self-confidence, have made a keen, hard-edged satire about the role celebrity-worship plays in the lives of ordinary folks. Instead, they've opted to take a softer, less abrasive approach, settling for a more conventional love triangle that still manages to win us over despite the formulaic nature of the story. The best part about `Win a Date with Tad Hamilton' is that it doesn't turn Tad into a boorish, self-centered jerk, which would have been so easy to do. As played by Josh Duhamel, Tad is, instead, a decent, well-meaning, good-natured young man who basically just wants the same thing out of life that we all do, namely love and commitment from that one special person. Even though we know how this triangle will most likely be resolved, the film still generates a certain amount of emotional tension because we actually come to like all three of the characters who make it up. We know Rosalee can't end up with both men, but each, in his own way, appears to be a viable alternative. This spirit of equanimity is not always the case with these types of stories.
Bosworth exudes such a healthy, radiant glow that we don't question for a second why both Tad and Pete are drawn to her. Duhamel pours on the celebrity charm without becoming smarmy and unctuous in the process. And Topher Grace nicely underplays the role of Rosalee's erstwhile secret devotee who faces a rival no Ordinary Joe should ever have to go up against.
`Win a Date with Tad Hamilton' isn't as good as it might have been had it opted for a riskier, edgier tone. But it's not bad as romantic comedies go and in these days of `Along Came Polly,' `Alex and Emma,' `Chasing Liberty' et al., that's saying quite a bit indeed.
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