Director: Chris Nelson
Release Date: April 12, 2019 (Netflix)
Netflix has thrown money at every type of movie, TV show, comedy star, and limited short series in an attempt to be the one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs. It’s had huge success in targeting young teens by making an excessive amount of high school rom-coms, most notably To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Sierra Burgess is a Big Loser. In an attempt to keep the attention of angsty teens, they gave Noah Centineo, who played supporting roles in the aforementioned films, a leading part in its latest romantic comedy, The Perfect Date.
The film follows a high school senior, Brooks, who is looking for inspiration for his admissions letter to Yale and for a way to pay for the expensive Ivy League school. While working his part-time job at a sandwich shop he gets an opportunity to take a rich kid’s cousin to a school dance and get paid for it. Seeing the demand for this service, he has his best friend develop an app that allows him to do this as a regular job. The movie takes a twist when his first pay-to-date customer, Celia (Laura Marano), proposes that they pretend to go to social events as a fake couple to make their actual crushes jealous. So it’s like the plot to 10 Things I Hate About You mixed with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
The plot is unoriginal, which is fine considering the target audience is young kids who have likely never seen the rom-coms that this so clearly is ripping off, but the whole movie can be predicted beat for beat just from watching the trailer. The weird girl who refuses to wear heals and the tall pretty boy who can morph into whoever you ask him to be for a little cash appear to be unfit, right? They’re just too different, it’ll never happen they’re just friends. She’s into a coffee snob graffiti “artist” and he’s chasing the conventionally hot popular rich girl. I don’t want to give anything away but you can figure it out. Some tropes never die.
I don’t know who to blame for the disastrous performances. Was it the actors? Or was it the terrible dialogue they were given to work with? It’s an uninspired attempt at evoking some sort of soul-searching meaning that just comes off as corny. The monologues make you want to crawl out of your skin. The chemistry between Celia and Brooks is nonexistent, a real mess all around.
Giving the co-star of previous successful films of this genre a leading role is a good idea, but with an unoriginal plot, bad script and direction, you don’t set him or anyone else involved up to succeed. Netflix’s quantity-over-quality approach has worked to this point but with $6.99 Disney Plus coming right around the corner, they might want to consider stepping it up a notch. High school teens likely won’t be disappointed with The Perfect Date, but those of us old enough to have seen the original versions of this story know it was better in every aspect the first time around.