Dir: Clare Kilner. US. 2005. 85mins

Imagine Pretty Womanin reverse. Instead of a handsome, sophisticated businessman hiring abeautiful, vivacious call girl to serve as his date for the weekend, it is thewoman, in this case sweet but neurotic, who pays a professional male escort topose as her boyfriend for three days. Now imagine Pretty Woman strippedof all charm, humour and exuberance and without the infectious appeal of JuliaRoberts. You end up with The Wedding Date.

As 1994's Pretty Womandemonstrated, Hollywood has a knack for taking what, in real life, could onlybe described as a sad, even ugly situation and turning it into a morallyacceptable and thunderously successful fairy tale romance. Even by Hollywoodstandards, however, The Wedding Date is superficially conceived andineptly plotted.

Moviegoers who spot the word'wedding' in the title and anticipate a Four Weddings And AFuneral-inspired romp will be sorely disappointed. Bad word of mouth willsoon drive this film from the theatres despite a good $11m opening in the US on 3,052 screens. Video prospects look better.

Based on a novel, Fox'sfeature screenwriting debut finds the self-consciously single Kat (Will AndGrace's Messing) flying to London to attend her spoiled half-sister Amy's(Adams) wedding. With no 'significant other' to take along, Kat forks over$6,000 to gigolo Nick (Mulroney) to pretend to be her boyfriend, partially inthe hopes of driving her ex-fiance Jeffrey (Sheffield), the wedding's best man,crazy with jealousy.

If the script were aimingfor a kind of screwball comedy status (after all, isn't that supposed to beMessing's strong suit), both Nick and Jeffrey would fall for Kat and she'd haveto choose between them. The plot follows a less predictable trajectory, however.While Nick does become smitten with Kat - and she with him - it turns out thatJeffrey isn't in love with Kat at all; he is in love with Amy.

While unpredictability isgenerally a plus in a script, the spanner Fox throws in here proves thoroughlyunconvincing - and uninteresting, too, since the audience doesn't care whathappens to either Amy or Jeffrey. The biggest obstacle to Nick and Kat's ownromance seems to be the relationship's credibility. The threats to eternalhappiness feel as manufactured as the romance itself. And that's even beyondthe fact that Nick, who is supposed to come across as debonair, in fact justseems aloof.

The level of bothcharacterisation and storytelling recalls a particularly weak televisionsitcom. Dialogue feels forced and facial expressions seem like so much mugging.Only Holland Taylor as Kat's mother and Peter Egan as her stepfather manage tokeep their heads above water, despite poorly written parts.

Even the set-up feelshaphazard and slipshod. Wouldn't Kat and Nick at least get their story straightbefore they arrive in London' When they first meet her parents, Nick has noidea what his profession is supposed to be because Kat hasn't bothered toenlighten him on their 7-hour flight from New York to the UK. And wouldn't Katwonder why a cultured, educated man like Nick (who is revealed to have a degreefrom top-ranked Brown University) had chosen to become a gigolo' Apparently thefilmmakers felt that too much curiosity might kill the Kat. The lack of it,however, kills the film.

Prod cos: 26 Films, Visionview
US dist:
Universal Pics
Intl sales:
Mandate Pics
Exec prods:
Norm Watt, ScottNiemeyer, Steve Robbins, Jim Reeve
Nathalie Marciano,Michelle Chydzik Sowa, Jessica Bendinger, Paul Brooks
Dana Fox, based on the bookAsking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young
Oliver Wood
Prod des:
Tom Burton
Mary Finlay
Blake Neely
Main cast:
Debra Messing, DermotMulroney, Amy Adams, Jeremy Sheffield, Peter Egan, Holland Taylor