In the Golden Age classic “Sullivan’s Travels,” a snobbish director of fluffy Hollwood comedies (Joel McCrea) learns the value of what he does, and does best, and accepts it after going out among the people.
In “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” Mr. Spock (Nimoy, of course) reminds Admiral Kirk (@WilliamShatner) that being a starship captain “was your first, best destiny.”
I’ve seen mediocre movies with Laura Marano and Noah Centineo this week — “Saving Zoë” for her, “Swiped” for him. So I needed to catch up with their April Netflix release “The Perfect Date” to remember why they keep getting work and, what their paired “first best destiny” is.
They’re great at “meeting cute.” They do the sparkling banter thing well, as when her character, rich snarky girl Celia, insults working-class Brooks about his “services” pertaining to his new “The Stand In” app. He’s paid to be “your ideal date.”
Romantic comedies are their destiny, and this one, as obvious as it is, is a showcase for their gifts to the cinema.
Centineo, of “SPF-18” and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” gets to turn on the offhand charm as the dreamy dreamer Brooks, a Bridgeport teen with hopes of a future enrolled at Yale. Marano, of TV’s “Girl Meets World,” gets to play smart, snappish, hard-to-get but hard to resist.
They are damned adorable together.
So it doesn’t matter that he gets his notion to have his gay BFF (Odiseas Georgiadis, cute in the part) whip up an app for being professionally charming after escorting Celia, the cousin of a rich douche of a classmate, to her private school dance.
Doesn’t matter that he is instantly smitten by her gorgeous classmate (Camila Mendes, on the nose) at that dance, and that Celia professes an interest in another boy in her school.
They can bicker a bit, and she can brush him off after he’s fulfilled his duties.
“Do not try to define her, Brooks,” her amusingly indulgent father (Joe Chrest, delightful) counsels. “It will mess up your early ’40s.”
We KNOW they’re going to end up together. The trick is inventing enough amusing obstacles to that eventuality. “Perfect Date” does. Barely.
Director Chris Nelson cooks up a lively montage of “The Stand In” app dates — a coed who needs someone to take her to an art show (he bones up on art), a woman in need of a doubles partner for a “couples” tennis tourney, a girl who wants him to play the heel so her REAL boyfriend will look good by comparison to her parents, etc.
And screenwriter Steve Bloom populates this world with characters who have just a hint of wit, or inspire it in our leads, as when Brooks’ dad (Matt Walsh) pushes the University of Connecticut over Yale.
“Dad, UConn is like the girl down the street who eats food in bed, and smells like it
Movies like this make one wonder if Netflix has found an algorithm that makes them pay off. Their track record with youth rom-coms and sex-comedies (this is the former, decidedly PG with a smattering of profanity) is stellar.
The setting and realization of this world –Bridgeport vs. tony Greenwich, the BMW i8 that Brooks is loaned to take rich girl Celia to the dance, his “uniform” of Navy blue blazer, khakis, white shirt and blue tie — is spot on.
And the banter clicks. This new app, this “full bespoke escort service” in which Brooks promises to be exactly as talkative or silent, solicitous or rude as the woman hiring him desires?
“Think of it as Grubhub. Only instead of ordering Phad Thai, they’ll be ordering you! You’re a hooker, now. Guess that makes me your pimp. High tech.”
That’s all you really want in a rom-com, and maybe a little mushy feeling in the finale.
“Perfect Date” is a perfectly acceptable entry in the genre.
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Cast: Noah Centineo, Laura Marano, Camilla Mendes, Matt Walsh, Carrie Lazar, Odiseas Georgiadis
Credits: Directed by Chris Nelson, script by Steve Bloom. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30