The tagline for Date Movie says it all: "For people who LOVE date movies and for people who HATE them." Presuming that such a spectrum includes the ambivalent, this is therefore a movie for everyone. And since it's for everyone, its strung-together movie parodies have to be so head-slappingly obvious that no one could possibly miss the joke. As with the Scary Movie seriesof which Date Movie director Aaron Seltzer and co-writer Jason Friedberg are chief perpetratorsthe result is a comedy that congratulates its audience for getting references to movies that made over $200 million. If there's any clearer example of pandering to the lowest common denominator, only the most cynical of Fox TV executives have dared to contemplate it.
Packed with winking nods to such obscurities as Pretty Woman, Bridget Jones's Diary, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, When Harry Met Sally..., and many more, Date Movie opens with an ever-willing Alyson Hannigan in a fat suit, and descends from there. Anyone who blanched at Shallow Hal's storyline will now appreciate its sensitivity relative to the 10-minute spectacle of Hannigan sloshing around (with sound effects) in an Austin Powers-style dance number and having her copious back hair waxed in a makeover. After the newly slimmed-down Hannigan gets paired with a dreamy Hugh Grant type (Adam Campbell) on a parody of The Bachelor (oh, the fun never stops), the two are ready for marriage, but first they have to meet both sets of parents.
The Scary Movie franchise makes some sense, because horror films are easily deflated by laughter. But how do you go about parodying a comedy? The answer is, "You don't," but Seltzer and Friedberg forge ahead anyway by stealing jokes from other movies and taking them to the outer limits of anti-hilarity. Remember the potty-trained cat from Meet The Parents? Now it's a flatulent beast that humps the remains of its owner's grandmother. How about the disgusting basketball scene in Along Came Polly, when neat-freak Ben Stiller has his face pressed against some guy's hairy, sweat-sopped chest? Now the gag is pretty much the same, only the Stiller surrogate coughs up a hairball. It's kind of amazing that a joke-a-second comedy like Date Movie doesn't contain a single laugh, but what's there has been so thoroughly focus-grouped and market-tested that no joy escapes the vacuum.