Expiration Date

Opens at Egyptian, Wed., June 21. Rated G. 94 minutes.

Locally made by area director Rick Stevenson, Date is what he described at SIFF as "not only a romantic fable, but a black comedy as well." OK, now we know those genres don't mix. An accomplished filmmaker, Stevenson has basically specialized in family fare (1995's Magic in the Water, 2000's The Dinosaur Hunter). Accordingly, Date doesn't color the romance with sex or tinge the black comedy with violence, even though its story concerns a Native American family curse under which its men are killed by milk trucks on their 25th birthdays. Next in line, with eight days to go, is shy and understandably morbid barista Charlie (Robert A. Guthrie), whose white mother (Dee Wallace-Stone) is both overprotective of her at-risk son and eager that he produce her a grandchild. Enter wacky Bessie (Sascha Knopf), who begins competing with Charlie to buy up funeral plots. He's got no time for romance as he ticks off items on his final to-do list, but it also appears that Bessie herself may be headed toward the great beyond. So what better time to hook up, right? There's nothing wrong with a little nookie before the yawning grave.

If Stevenson had done nothing other than chase Charlie around Seattle with menacing milk trucks (as in the SIFF trailer), he'd have a fun little movie on his hands. But the sitcommy tone and screwball setup—Charlie is quiet, Bessie is LOUD!—quickly become annoying. (And jokes about Seattle's addiction to coffee? Please—didn't Frasier put those to rest?) Stevenson is copying any number of old movie templates, but they're denatured—wholesome milk compared to the original vodka sting. Charlie and Bessie's is an overly cute, chaste romance, and when guns finally come out, they fire paintballs, not real lead. Date is an enjoyable enough .22-caliber comedy, but something made for Nickelodeon, not adult filmgoers. And it's a movie that will soon find its intended market.

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