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MOVIE REVIEW

Stale gags and silly spoofs make this one cheap 'Date'

Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg are two of the many writers behind the Wayans brothers' ''Scary Movie" franchise, which made fun of the horror genre in all its gory glory. The two go it alone with ''Date Movie," and if their goal was to make a spoof film with heart, the end result has an irregular beat at best.

Seltzer and Friedberg rely on the usual melange of frat-boy humor and pop-culture references in an effort to lampoon romantic comedies.

Here we follow Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan), a waitress at her family's Greek diner. She's desperate to find her Prince Charming, but can't land a man to see past her oversize figure -- a point underscored by Hannigan's opening musical sequence to Kelis's ''Milkshake"; it's the high point of the film. Complicating matters is her parents' requirement that she date someone within their culture -- her father is Greek, Jewish, and black, her mother is Indian, and her sister is Japanese.

All hope seems lost until Julia seeks guidance from date doctor Hitch (Tony Cox), a pint-size version of Will Smith's character from the film of that name, and receives a ''Pimp My Ride"-style makeover. Julia hooks up with Grant Funkyerdoder (Adam Campbell), a Hugh Grant-esque British charmer, and soon the two are on a rocky road to the altar. Banality ensues.

The film carries on like a laundry list of rom-coms ripe for the lampooning. There are obligatory references to standards like ''When Harry Met Sally," ''Pretty Woman," and ''Jerry Maguire," but each spoof spotlights the most obvious scenes and plays them out with little spark. The contemporary material, including sendups on Paris Hilton's Carl's Jr. commercial, a cameo by Lil John, and a shout-out to 50 Cent, is no better. It already feels dated.

The comedy isn't fresh either. Midgets, fart jokes, and fat suits are as innovative as a kick to the groin -- which is also featured.

The gags don't produce the big-belly laughs of ''The 40-Year-Old Virgin"; despite the actors' bestefforts, the jokes just fall flat. What fun there is comes from identi-fying the flicks being parodied, making ''Date Movie" more successful as a game of Name That Film.

Hannigan does her usual awkward-but-charming routine that she perfected as Willow on ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and newcomer Campbell does a decent job keeping up with her. He's not the Jim Carrey he hopes to be but holds nothing back. They have fun through the first half of the film, but after Julia loses the pounds and the two are engaged, the actors are just dragged through one poorly executed parody after another.

''Date Movie" has enough laughs to make rambunctious dudes hoot and holler, but not nearly enough to ensure the happy ending it promises.

Bobby Hankinson can be reached at rhankinson@globe.com.

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