Date Movie

February 23rd, 2006 Film, Film Reviews, Personalities, Xpress

Written and Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer

Starring Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell, Eddie Griffin, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Tony Cox, Carmen Electra, Sophie Monk.

You might have seen the girl washing the car and eating the hamburger in a swimsuit in the Date Movie trailer once before. Remember Bardot? The all-girl clone band from the first series of Popstars? Sophie Monk hasn’t spent the years since sitting still, she’s just been out of the limelight. Now she appears as Andy, the sexy ex of the heroine’s true love.

‘Well, I released an album on my own,’ Monk says (referring to Calendar Girl) while promoting the movie in the US, ‘I did Rhumba. I kind of slowed down for a little bit, went to England and did lots of recording. I was getting ready for another album but was also weighing up whether to go to America to do pilot season so I got an audition for Date Movie and got in.’

So even though Monk says her phone is only now starting to ring hot for her screen presence, music will always be part of her life. ‘Acting’s fun because it’s portraying someone else’s thoughts according to what you think it is,’ she says, ‘it’s different because it’s not you. Music’s more you.’

And does writing music — as she’s done no small amount of — qualify her to write a script? ‘I’ll take it one step at a time but I can barely spell,’ she says, ever-ready with a self-depreciating remark, possibly to deflect criticism of being just another pretty blonde diva in Hollywood.

Similarly, Monk has no illusions about Date Movie’s likely reputation, but for her, the fun was in the making. ‘Who wouldn’t?’ she says when we talk about the possibility of winning an Oscar (probably not for Date Movie, she agrees). ‘That’s not my aim though, ever. If you do a movie that’s edgy and takes a risk, that’s the sort of stuff that gets nominated and that’s fine. I’d rather enjoy what I do than win an Oscar for something that wasn’t so much fun.’

It’s nice to hear Monk had fun making Date Movie. Few of us in the audience are likely to. A subgenre was created and perfected all at once in 1980 with Flying High, when three friends (two of them brothers), wrote, produced and directed the first comic parody.

Riffing on the melodramatic Airport movies of the 70s and 80s (but with the little-seen Zero Hour as their prime inspiration), Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams became a comedy powerhouse, never reaching quite the same dizzying heights but coming close with The Naked Gun films, Top Secret and the Police Squad TV series.

By the time of Hot Shots!, the wheels were falling off. Whether the trio had grown too old for the sort of whiplash gags that made Flying High so riotous or they’d just run out of ideas, the spoof comedy spluttered and died.

The seemingly endless Wayans family stepped in to pick up the mantle with Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking your Juice in the Hood in 1996, fresh from their hit TV series In Living Color. With 2000’s Scary Movie, they went big screen (Ironically, the Wayans’ left the franchise after the first sequel and the original king of parody Jerry Zucker stepped in).

The second wave of comic parody had the same pedigree of the first, but instead of a circus of laughs it was more like a porn movie. Relying as much on trying to make the audience feel sick as it did on jokes, it was a different beast from Flying High and its progeny.

Each new Scary Movie and now Date Movie raises hopes that the old school will return, but as soon as you see an extended scene of a cat sitting on a toilet having an attack of diarrhoea, you know you’ve been let down again.

The jokes go on too long, directors Friedberg and Seltzer (from the original Scary Movie writing team) clobber you over the head with them instead of sliding them in under your guard like the Zuckers of old, and too many of them are simply disgusting and not in the least funny — unless you’re a 10 year old boy.

And perhaps that’s why the movie fails so badly; the demographic that would be interested in seeing their favourite genre receive a good-natured skewering is unlikely to respond to prepubescent sniggers.

There are possibly four out-loud laughs to be had as dumpy Julia (Hannigan) looks for the love of her life. She finds him in Grant (Campbell), but has to negotiate their families and his ex girlfriend (Monk) in digs at everything from Bridget Jones’ Diary and Hitch to Meet the Parents and What Women Want.

We only really care about a movie when we’re interested in the journey of the characters. That was true even in Flying High, when the plot dealt with a real challenge to overcome and didn’t really deviate from it. Date Movie’s ‘plot’ veers wildly in any excuse to throw a barb and is so unconcerned with progressing the story it might as well be a series of skits. And even then, it’d need to be a lot funnier.

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