It’s not enough to dub The Wedding Date a kind of Pretty Man, in honor of the studly escort (Dermot Mulroney) rented by a neurotic yet practical single woman (Debra Messing) in New York to be her arm candy at what she anticipates will be a hellish family gathering in London. So many body parts from other engineered romantic comedies have been crudely harvested and stitched together in the making of this weird robotic lark that Maid of Honor of Frankenstein might be more useful a nickname.
From Pretty Woman comes the popularly hypocritical middle-American fantasy of a hooker-who-looks-like-a-movie-star, with Mulroney, suave in a tuxedo and (as the camera leers at his butt) even suaver in the altogether, as a man who rents himself out to ladies in need.
In this case, the employer is Messing’s Kat, who dreads showing up solo at the wedding of her princessy half-sister, Amy (Amy Adams), especially since Kat’s caddish ex-beau (Jeremy Sheffield) is the best man. From Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, there’s the jolly, phony-as-Madonna’s-accent Anglophilia, created by American first-time screenwriter Dana Fox and British director Clare Kilner. In this instance, frightfully sophisticated and ch-ch-charming Brits (i.e., Amy’s dim but gentlemanly intended and his mates) embrace their Yank counterparts for games of cricket, pub crawling, and parties held in country houses out of Howards End.
From Maid in Manhattan, with its stultifying lack of chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Jennifer Lopez, comes the fizzle between Mulroney and Messing — the former a relaxed movie actor (himself filched from My Best Friend’s Wedding) whose rugged masculinity fails to relax Messing’s usually more delightful, tightly wound persona.
The Wedding Date proceeds as prescripted as marriage vows; the studio-sealed happy ending is in sight from the first frame. And even though the comedy flirts with modern gender reversal — Kat is the buyer, Nick is the goods — the movie’s numbingly conventional mind-set is also never in doubt: Having purchased the pleasure of his company like a grown sexual woman, Kat becomes a giggly little girl in a flannel nightie when it comes time for bed and the possibility of S-E-X. At least Richard Gere knew what to do with Julia Roberts when Edward met Vivian.