Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 23, 2014)
More than 25 years since Die Hard made Bruce Willis an action hero, it becomes tough to remember the brief mid-1980s period in which he attempted to fashion himself as a star of romantic comedies. However, that made a lot more sense pre-1988 given Willis’s path to stardom.
That’s because Willis came to prominence via the 1985 TV series Moonlighting, a detective show that highlighted comedy and romantic tension between the actor and co-star Cybill Shepherd. Given that background, his starring role in 1987’s light comedy Blind Date seemed more logical than Die Hard would a year later.
Perhaps if Date had scored at the box office, Willis’s career would’ve gone a different way. Not that it bombed; Date took in $39 million, which was decent in 1987. However, the movie didn’t make a big impact on the audience and left the impression that Willis was another TV guy who struggled to move to the big screen – an impression that would go poof in 1988.
Back when I first saw Date, Die Hard remained in the future, and I recall that I liked the comedy – but not enough to watch it again since 1987. That made this Blu-ray a good chance to revisit the Blake Edwards comedy and see how it holds up after all these years.
Walter Davis (Willis) works obsessively and neglects his personal life. This causes a problem when he needs a date for an important business function. Walter’s brother Ted (Phil Hartman) sets him up with his wife Susie’s (Stephanie Faracy) cousin Nadia Gates (Kim Basinger).
Initially this seems like a great deal for Walter, as the gorgeous, charming Nadia appears to be a terrific match. The date goes quite well – for a while. Despite warnings not to let Nadia drink, she imbibes more booze than she should, and this leads to a mix of wacky complications.
As I mentioned earlier, I liked Date back in the 1980s – in fact, I think I enjoyed it a lot. I guess I was much easier to entertain back then, as I can’t find much to endorse about it now.
Not that it lacks any charms whatsoever. Date does come with a nice supporting cast, and folks like Hartman, John Larroquette and others deliver occasional laughs along the way.
These tend to be very occasional, unfortunately, as most of the movie comes across as witless and contrived. We simply need to swallow too many coincidences and stretches of logic to accept the characters and situations.
These wouldn’t seem bad if they felt incidental, but since the story’s main motivating force relies on intentional idiocy, Date suffers at its core. Walter gets warned not to give Nadia booze but does it anyway. He sees how it affects her but pours her another drink. And how long can two stinking glasses of champagne impair her? She acts like a lunatic for hours based on a few sips of bubbly, which doesn’t make much sense.
Ultimately, these scenes conspire to make Walter less and less likable. Ted warns him not to give her booze – he does so anyway. Nadia resists the champagne – Walter pours it again. Nadia acts like a nut – Walter continues to provide more alcohol.
Despite the fact that he created his own woes, Walter goes bonkers and blames Nadia for all his problems. Where’s the logic in that? How are we supposed to sympathize with and care about Walter when he comes across like such a jerk throughout the movie?
If the film generated more laughs, I wouldn’t mind these lapses in logic so much, but unfortunately, it can’t deliver many yuks – and the giggles we get stem almost entirely from the actors involved. Dale Launer’s script lacks cleverness or wit, and Edwards does nothing to elicit humor from the material. The talents of the performers occasionally allow us to feel amused, but they can’t do much to redeem the woeful nature of the source.
That’s a shame, as there’s no reason Blind Date couldn’t have been a fun ride. Its “one crazy night” motif may be well-worn, but it could’ve offered laughs, and there’s certainly enough talent involved to create expectations in the viewer. Unfortunately, the end result lacks merit.