Date Movie (2006) — Stale references with a gag reflex

“I’m just a girl. Standing in front of a boy. Asking him to love me.”

Justin’s rating: How is naming the guy parodying Hitch “Hitch” supposed to be funny? At all?

Justin’s review: I think I sorta put my finger on the problem of many modern parody flicks when I was talking with Pooly the other day. I said something to the effect of, “These parodies today rely far too much on modern, passing pop culture references, while the classic parodies of ten, twenty years ago focused far more on long-lasting jokes.”

Let me ask you a question: How many of you or your friends quoted or watched, within the past year, any of the following: Airplane, The Naked Gun, or Hot Shots? Now, the same question, but replace the titles of the movies with Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie. How’d you come out, there? I thought so.

It seems that Hollywood today exclusively caters parodies to the teen-and-tween market who have limited attention spans and want to laugh at some goofy MTV or American Idol reference instead of Leslie Nelson using a samurai sword pen to assassinate a fish that bit his nose. Heck, do you see a common thread between the titles of Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, and Date Movie? Is the word “movie” supposed to be inherently funny, or is someone just being lazy with generic stupidity?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely okay for a parody to make pop culture references. But those should be a distant third to (most important) funny, side-splitting gags and jokes, and well-known movie parodies. Excuse the pun, but Date Movie was dated by the time it landed in movie theaters, and will be entirely superfluous by the time this review actually makes it to the front page of Mutant Reviewers. Among the come-and-gone pop culture references in Date Movie are: The Bachelor, the songs “Milkshake” and “Candy Shop,” Paris Hilton’s Carl’s Jr. commercial, and Pimp My Ride. That all had a shelf life of about two weeks.

Plus, for a supposed romance movie parody, Date Movie plucks references to surprisingly weird non-romantic films like Napoleon Dynamite and Dodgeball. Double-plus, a huge chunk of the film is pretty much lifted from the lackluster Meet the Fockers, which wasn’t what I’d label “romantic” in any serious fashion.

I’m meandering because the film isn’t much more than others of its ilk. Julia (American Pie’s Alyson Hannigan) is a real fatty, and that’s supposed to be funny. She falls in love with a British guy and then gets the fat sucked out of her so she can woo him. That’s supposed to be funny. They fall in love. Julia encounters a romantic rival. There’s a misunderstanding, a break up, and a reunion. Date Movie is indeed the film that takes bold risks with the romantic genre! But very much, this plot skeleton exists only to insert stale references and then tack on something violently gross just to make people gag. I mean, if a movie can’t make people laugh out loud, maybe the director thought that audible gagging was an acceptable substitute?

My wife, who adores romantic movies the way many old ladies adore the bunions on their feet, had a kick identifying many of the movies Date Movie pokes fun at. Of course, a parody in itself isn’t too funny without a solid joke to back it up — Julia dresses up like Pretty Woman and walks down the street, okay, but there’s nothing past that. A Jennifer Lopez lookalike is given a huge butt and… nothing else to work with. These are flaky references that crumble the second after you touch them. While there are homages to older romance flicks, such as When Harry Met Sally, the large bulk of parodies come from 1999 to 2005 that teens-and-tweeners might well recognize. But for me, there’s precious little thrill to seeing Along Came Polly or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days brought back up into my consciousness.

While there are a few solid laughs — a “bum fight” and Mr. And Mrs. Smith parody in particular — the vast majority of this flick feels rushed, gross and tacky. “Lowbrow” is the word we need here, if my thesaurus would just work right. Maybe we should even invent “underbrow” just for this.

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