Arguably the lamest of all the free-wheeling genre parodies that have taken flight since “Airplane!,” “Date Movie” is stupefyingly unfunny in its attempts to mock romantic comedies, celebrities, reality TV shows and anything else that pops into the heads of its creators. An air of desperation hangs heavily over the enterprise as barrel bottoms are scraped and easy targets are missed. Fox may have hidden pic from critics before its Feb. 17 opening, but the studio won’t be able to stem the raging tide of negative buzz once word of mouth spreads. After a fleeting theatrical run, vidstore bargain bins await.
Against all odds, Alyson Hannigan struggles mightily to brighten the dreary proceedings. She proves to be a game farceur, even while encased in heavy latex and a gargantuan fat suit as Julia Jones, a lovelorn singleton who’s introed as a great big fat Greek restaurant waitress who looks more like Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shallow Hal” than Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”
When she falls in love with a handsome customer (Adam Campbell, very Leonardo DiCaprio-esque), Julia seeks help from a diminutive dating counselor (Tony Cox) to lose weight and gain self-confidence. But after she lands her sweetie, she must cope with the objections of her disapproving “Greek” father (the conspicuously African-American Eddie Griffith), and the machinations of a beautiful romantic rival (Australian pop star Sophie Monk).
The tissue-thin premise, of course, is merely an excuse for writer-director Aaron Seltzer and co-scripter Jason Friedberg to launch a scattershot barrage of wink-wink, nudge-nudge references to movies ranging from “Hitch” and “When Harry Met Sally” to “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “Meet the Fockers.” (Jennifer Coolidge provides a few bright moments with a spot-on spoof of Barbra Streisand.)
But very few of their labored gags are clever enough even to qualify as sophomoric. Indeed, most of the visual humor appears to be pitched at slow learners and mouth breathers. For example: To make fun of “The Wedding Planner,” they simply intro a Jennifer Lopez look-alike (Dana Seltzer) with a mountainous backside. A “40-Year-Old Virgin” bit doesn’t even qualify as satire, merely as a much less amusing reprise of the hair-waxing scene.
Pic also goes beyond its primary target range to include jokey allusions to “King Kong,” “Kill Bill” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Trouble is, those bits aren’t funny, either. Seltzer and Friedberg may have been two of the six credited writers on the original “Scary Movie,” but this collaboration suggests that — well, that they need other collaborators.
Limp pacing only serves to underscore how padded and repetitious “Date Movie” feels. And it doesn’t help much that pic is mercilessly extended by nearly 10 minutes of closing credits. Tech values are unspectacular.