Smile Marker 

Kate Bosworth’s pretty face disguises the slightness of Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!

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That Kate Bosworth—she sure can smile, can’t she?

The many smiles of Miss Bosworth practically become a plot point in the romantic comedy Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!, through her character Rosalee Futch. She grins, she beams and she smirks, giving pearly-whites the kind of screen time we haven’t seen since Tom Cruise’s cocky heyday. She’s a walking advertisement for orthodontics and cosmetic bleaching.

Hollywood has rarely gone broke hanging a cheerful love story on a pretty girl’s smile—the vintage dimple-flashing of Meg Ryan, the dental wattage of Julia Roberts—so it makes good sense to employ Bosworth’s classical girl-next-door looks. And she contributes a lot more to Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! than what’s beneath her nose and above her chin, anchoring the film with an unforced ingénue-ity. But look away from her for more than a few moments, and you may forget the entire point of the movie you’re watching. It’s the kind of film fluff that’s blowing off the screen before the credits start to roll.

Of course, you could also say that it’s “gentle” and “easy-going,” which also describes life in Frazier’s Bottom, W.Va. That’s where Bosworth’s Rosalee works as a clerk at the local Piggly Wiggly, and where her lifelong best friend Pete Monash (Topher Grace) is her store manager. Pete also nurtures a wicked case of unrequited, unexpressed love for Rosalee, while watching her swoon over movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel) with a conviction that he’s as upstanding as his characters.

In fact, Josh is an inveterate wild child whose tabloid exploits are driving his handlers (Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes) to distraction. So in an effort to polish their boy’s reputation, they concoct a charity publicity stunt pairing Tad with one lucky civilian for an evening. When—surprise, surprise—Rosalee wins the celebrity date, Tad ends up just as taken with this simple girl as she is with the famous guy, leaving Pete to fume and scheme.

It’s all very Doc Hollywood, as the fast-lane boy finds himself unexpectedly infatuated with the wholesome values of small-town America. Hollywood loves making this kind of story, because then it can include self-mocking portrayals of rapacious industry types and montages of weird L.A. crap like bikini-clad hitchhikers, while pretending that the people generally referred to as “flyovers” are just the salt of the earth. Faux humility rarely fits studio product well.

The appeal is obvious, though, especially when it’s teamed with a moderately clever script by sitcom veteran Victor Levin, and someone like Topher Grace to give it just a hint of edge. But there’s a wee problem with this Pretty in Pink/Some Kind of Wonderful romantic triangulation: the guy who’s going to be doing the changing isn’t the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. Josh Duhamel has fun with Tad both as a cad and as a born-again decent fella, but he’s not the hero. The direction by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) drifts amiably yet aimlessly because there’s no commitment to whom this movie is about as we wait for the inevitable happy ending. The cute lines and appealing performances—including Ginnifer Goodwin, who’s angling to become this generation’s Joan Cusack, as a quirky gal-pal second banana, and Gary Cole as Bosworth’s star-struck dad—generally prove about as satisfying and memorable as a breath mint.

Along the way, at least there’s Bosworth to provide scenery. And dang it all if she isn’t thoroughly convincing as the pure soul who can break hearts without a clue that she’s doing it. As the object of this particular tug of war of adoration, she’s easy enough to buy, and easy on the eyes. She’s enough to make you walk away from Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! wearing a smile of your own—even if you may have no recollection of how it actually got there.

WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON! , **.5, Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel, Topher Grace, Rated PG-13

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