What do the makers of Date Movie think their audience wants from a film like this? What does said audience really expect? And what different circumstances would my life have to undergo for me to give this movie a positive review?
These are the questions that plague my soul. Since much of what I do involves either dealing or deconstructing pop culture, I’m required to keep in touch with my 17-year-old self. But Date Movie’s makers mistakenly approach their situation by thinking, “What’s the dumbest movie we can sell to the dumbest people on the planet?” Its cultural references supplanting humour reach a nadir as Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan) celebrates with her new beau by beating up a homeless person. Blame individuals’ stupidity for copycat Bumfights incidents all you want. Believe it or not, there’s no level of dumb a person can be that’s too stupid for Date Movie.
Its very problem is that it’s satire without perspective. The filmmaking duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (two of the original six writers of Scary Movie) follow their Scary Movie routine of re-enacting scenes of the movies they’re parodying while adding gratuitous non-sequiturs. Replacing the titular love doctor from Hitch with Tony Cox, the dwarf from Bad Santa, isn’t sending up the Will Smith movie. It has no connection to anything. Were the movie less abusive, viewers might feel embarrassed for it. Unlike Not Another Teen Movie, which had the benefit of some iconic source material, Date Movie is immediately dated. Working from a lot of the vapid romantic comedies of recent years, its targets are easier and it still finds nothing to say about them.
The effect is of major studio Fox showing it’s above itself by wringing its own neck over the dreck it frequently releases. This makes Date Movie the theatrical equivalent to MuchMusic’s Video on Trial, where a panel bashes music videos through realist misreadings and hateful judgements on the lives of the celebrities involved. Only a culture that hasn’t learned to look at itself critically could tolerate such “criticism.”
Reference-laden as it is, Not Another Teen Movie (as well as the Scary Movie franchise) doesn’t function as parody either. Like Date Movie, its comedy sinks or swims on the brow-level of wit rather than the method of it. I don’t disagree with the complaints made in my initial review of that film, but repeat viewings have treated it kindly. Its caricatures are clever, and it fulfils a very basic tenet of comedy: It’s funny.
But Date Movie isn’t funny. The appalling spectacle of Date Movie ties a disregard for its audience with the degradation of its stars. The opening has Hannigan in a fat suit looking for action. The mild play on Bridget Jones continues as she prowls through town, her awkward homegirl jive a reminder of Cameron Diaz in an early scene from The Sweetest Thing. Horny, utterly without shame and wishing to draw the men on the street, she works it hard to Kelis’ “Milkshake.” It’s a disgusting scene. The kind where you have to squint to see the joke, and when you think you’ve found it, you get more appalled.
As testament to the movie’s ineffectiveness, perceptions of Bridget Jones, The Sweetest Thing and “Milkshake” remain unaltered. The same holds true for Dumb and Dumber — where Jeff Daniels’ sonic colon declogging scene has gotten so tame over the decade that Date Movie has to replay it with a toilet-trained cat. That’s right: a cat takes a massive dump and it’s the best thing Date Movie has to offer. A friend who had only seen its TV commercial pointed out that a shot of a Napoleon Dynamite imitator wearing a “DON’T Vote For Pedro” t-shirt is such a lazy non-existent gag, it almost has a fascinating quality. Actually, much of the movie is like that. In its ability to leave viewers in stunned disbelief over what they’re looking at, it’s halfway original.
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