"The Wedding Date" starts off with a risky setup but still feels curiously lifeless. Despite toying with prostitution, an idyllic British setting and family dysfunctions, screenwriter Dana Fox and director Claire Kilner manage to drain anything witty, romantic or even interesting from the final film.In addition, it gives "Will and Grace" star Debra Messing a chance to demonstrate that keeping our day jobs is often a really wise move.
In a role that's too close to her sitcom roots, Messing plays Kat Ellis, a somewhat neurotic woman who's headed from New York to her sister's wedding in England. While most folks might enjoy a change of scenery, Kat has reason for dreading the trip. She and rest of her family can't stand each other, and the best man is her slimy ex-boyfriend Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield).
To make the journey and the destination slightly more bearable, Kat recruits a "male escort" named Nick Mercer (Dermot Mulroney). It's a bit of a stretch to believe a woman with Messing's appearance couldn't find a suitable date without hefty cash incentives, and Fox and Kilner do very little to make the setup credible or compelling.
Kilner's leaden pacing makes the 90-minute running time seem much longer, and Fox (working from Elizabeth Young's novel Asking for Trouble) populates the cast with several quirky British characters who have thin to non-existent personalities.
Whereas screenwriter Richard Curtis ("Love Actually," "Notting Hill") has made a career out of pairing Yanks with goofy Brits, Fox gives the folks on the other side of the Atlantic almost nothing to do. It also doesn't help that her gags aren't that funny.
What makes "The Wedding Date" spectacularly lackluster is that Messing and Mulroney have no chemistry. "Pretty Woman" had a similarly seamy premise but was redeemed by the fact that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts play off each beautifully. Messing makes a valiant effort and does have a knack for physical comedy.
The normally solid Mulroney (who's used to much better effect in "About Schmidt" and "Undertow") strolls through the film projecting a sense of indifference. To his credit, he seems to know that the material is wanting (even Alec Guinness couldn't do much with this one), but his doubts become contagious to viewers.
When "The Wedding Date" reaches its foregone conclusion, the effect is about like discovering that the person you've walked down the aisle with wants to spend the honeymoon watching TV alone.Romantic comedies require a little bit of wit and love. Cute couples going through the motions is something we can see without shelling out nine or ten dollars.