On paper, "The Wedding Date" must have looked like a can't-miss movie project. After all, it stars likable and reliably wacky TV star Debra Messing ("Will & Grace") and the material seems tailor-made for her.
Of course, it borrows so heavily from "Pretty Woman" and "My Best Friend's Wedding" that it should have been called "Handsome Man" or "My Sister's Wedding."
But even if the material is terribly formulaic and derivative, it's still such a simple, by-the-numbers romantic comedy that only a Herculean effort could mess it up. And the filmmakers have managed to do exactly that.
Messing stars as Kat Ellis, a single woman so desperate for a date to her sister's impending overseas nuptials that she hires male escort Nick Mercer (Mulroney).
Though they've just met, Kat is hoping they'll get to know each other on the flight to England (where, for reasons unexplained, her family lives).
Nick soon discovers that Kat has actually hired him to make her ex, Jeffrey (Jeremy Sheffield), jealous. And to Kat's surprise, her friends and family take to Nick and encourage their "romance."
There are further complications and subplots involving Kat's rivalry with her soon-to-be-married sister (Amy Adams) and her sister's naive fiance (Jack Davenport). But they are also played entirely too straight-faced.
It's as if director Clare Kilner didn't realize she was making something so lightweight and fluffy and was trying to add an edge to it.
Unfortunately, that strategy has backfired, with disastrous results. Too often the film is dull and without even one good, solid laugh.
In fact, what humor exists is so lame that it challenges the notion that this really is a comedy, much less a romantic comedy. And that's not helped by the fact that Messing and her co-star Dermot Mulroney have zero chemistry, which certainly makes it romance-challenged, as well.
And again, the dull-as-dishwater performances don't help. Messing seems to be going through the motions, while Mulroney's know-it-all routine makes him seem like a bit of a jerk. Even the dependably amusing Holland Taylor, who plays Kat's perpetually soused mother, fails to register here.
"The Wedding Date" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual humor and references, scattered use of strong profanity, some religiously based profanity, a brief sex scene and brief partial male nudity (a backside). Running time: 89 minutes.