Directed by: Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger, Brett Winn
Starring: Brian Herzlinger, Jon Gunn, Brett Winn, Kerry David
I cannot convey how much I did not want to see this movie. I tried to palm it off on my Xpress reviewer-pal Marci Miller. No soap. She claimed she was swamped. My thought at the time was that she merely had better sense than to want to hie herself all the way to Hendersonville to see a movie about a guy trying to get a date with Drew Barrymore.
In any case, this left me stuck with the thing, raising the specter of having communicate my great dislike for My Date With Drew. All I could envision was a romantic-comedy version of Super-Size Me starring a Morgan Spurlock wanna-be. I have a general distaste for this kind of self-promoting MTV-spawn reality show, and this sounded for all the world like exactly that, at its most virulent.
And in a lot of ways that's exactly what this is -- right down to the big fuss made about the movie's $1,100 budget, a figure that's just as much fantasy as concerns what we see in the final product as Brian Herzlinger's dreams of a date with a Hollywood star. Face it, folks, this may well have been shot for $1,100 on a digital video camera obtained thanks to Circuit City's 30-day-return program -but what you finally see on the screen has many times that amount of post-production work done to it. Hell, $1,100 might make a down payment for the use of one of the pop songs on the soundtrack.
Things like that -- and wondering if Spielberg was getting kickbacks for all the posters from and references to his movies littered throughout the film -- did little to change my mind about My Date With Drew.
But little by little, the film's apparent naive charm started working on me until I was hooked by its schleppy hero-filmmaker and its screwy -- borderline stalker -- premise. If it isn't true that Herzlinger won his $1,100 as prize money on a game-show pilot where the answer was Drew Barrymore, it ought to be, and I'm choosing to believe it. I'm also choosing to believe that Herzlinger has had a crush on Barrymore since he was 6 years old.
I can't overlook the fact that the movie is ultimately pretty crass self-promotion, but I'm not sure it really pretends to be anything else, unlike the preachy Super-Size Me where Morgan Spurlock promoted himself -- and his film -- by trying to look like he was performing some civic duty by "exposing" the fact that fast-food isn't as healthy as a steady diet (what a shock, huh?). Whether Herzlinger is promoting himself to Drew Barrymore or to the viewer really makes no difference. It's still unabashed self-promotion. And he's honest about it. (That he's a lot more likable than Spurlock is a separate issue.)
He's also not afraid to be awkward and gawky and even make a fool of himself. Is this calculated? Oh, to some degree, it probably is. Herzlinger had to realize that if he didn't come across as a benign starstruck stumblebum, he'd come across as a paparazzi stalker and his film would be more creepy than charming. But this is, after all, a Hollywood fantasy about pursuing a Hollywood fantasy, and as such, it should be judged on that basis.
Of course, the ultimate question is whether or not Herzlinger will get his date with Barrymore, though it's giving nothing away to answer that question. There'd be no hook to sell the film if he didn't, so the question metamorphoses into how he'll do it and what it will be like. The how isn't all that important, but the movie's payoff lies in what it will be like. And this is where the film really scores.
We know full well that Barrymore's participation is on some level a PR concern, but it comes off as more than that -- and if this was a just a performance, it's the best one of her career. Finally, she validates Herzlinger's attempt, the power of dreams, and, of course, the innate good judgment of Herzlinger in singling her out.
If that sounds cynical, it really isn't when you see the movie. Why? The movie won't let it be, and therein lies the little bit of magic that's inside My Date With Drew. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and language.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke