Workaholic bachelor Walter Davis (Bruce Willis) has got a very important business dinner coming up that will hopefully seal a lucrative deal with a Japanese client. Walter needs to impress his boss and the client by bringing a very classy date.
With no luck of landing a date on his own, Walter’s brother Ted (Phil Hartman) sets him up on a blind date with with sweet sounding Southern belle Nadia (Kim Basinger). Ted assures him that she’s quite the catch and Walter will not regret having her on his arm. There’s just one thing – don’t let Nadia drink! Alcohol can make her go a bit wild!
Walter and Nadia meet and things are going better than he could have ever dreamed. Things are going so well, that Walter decides to break open some champagne for them. Nadia bends her elbow and the evening quickly spirals out of control. Nadia’s deranged ex John Larroquette shows up, Nadia starts to behaving badly and Walter’s future is put into jeopardy.
There’s fights, accidents, pratfalls and madcap chaos from the hand of director Blake Edwards. Despite the night of mayhem both Walter and Nadia realize they are made for each other. Now if only Walter can somehow save her from marrying Larroquette and they can live happily – and hopefully leave all the destruction behind.
Way back in 1987 Willis was only known from his role as detective David Addison on Moonlighting, being married to Demi Moore and doing wine cooler commercials. During Moonlighting’s hiatus was when he started to try carve out a film career. Blind Date was really his big screen film debut (aside from very small uncredited appearances). At the time it was unknown if this smirking ‘tv actor’ could make it in movies. He ended up getting billed behind Basinger.
I recall my friends and I going to see Blind Date since we all liked him on Moonlighting. The film was a modest hit, but didn’t really assure that Willis should leave the boob tube just yet. A year later he would reteam with Edwards for Sunset (a movie I don’t think anyone saw, other than my fiends and I). That movie would be an insignificant footnote to Die Hard that would come out a few months later that would rocket Willis his way to movie stardom.
Blind Date is a rather disposable comedy that has the earmarks of the famed physical humor that Edwards was best known for. A romantic comedy that escalates to tragic mayhem. It’s basically a film spilt in two. The first half is the ‘date from hell’ that Willis embarks on with Basinger. The second is set at Larroquette’s father’s (William Daniels) plush mansion that’s hosting a wedding.
There are some amusing pieces, mostly during the ‘date half’. Willis is at first pleasantly surprised by Basinger’s reveal and he’s feeling good about this night. After a bit of bubbly, gradually Basinger starts behaving worse and worse. Ripping off his suit pocket, making a scene at the restaurant, torpedoing his company’s big deal and getting Willis fired.
The night moves on with random pitstops where more trouble erupts. The exasperated Willis loses control himself and makes his own embarrassing scenes at another ritzy party. This madcap adventure is being helped along by the manic Larroquette following the couple around and just wildly attacking Willis any chance he gets. The ongoing joke is Larroquette keeps crashing his car into a series of cartoonish buildings, like pet shops, paint stores and flour factories.
Some bits of comedy work better than others. Willis and Basinger do click together pretty well and make a decent onscreen couple. I always thought Basinger’s hairstyle was off-putting in the film though. It just made her look more average and dowdy than her luscious golden locks, but maybe that was the point. They try to play her looks down a bit and have Nadia be this innocent sweet lady who turns into an uncontrollable wildcat.
Larroquette at the time was also best known as a tv star from playing his Emmy winning comedic foil on Night Court. Here, he doesn’t get to show off the quiet slimy persona he was best known for playing on that show and that made him so enjoyable to watch.
In Blind Date, he’s more like Wile E. Coyote. He acts outrageously angry, he’s very exaggerated and screaming everytime he shows up. He could be much more fun as an adversary being more subtle than just trying to get laughs by comedically strangling someone.
Had the film began and ended with the ‘date night’ I think it would’ve been better. Think of it as a romantic After Hours-type of story that unravels and somehow ends happily for our couple over the course of one night.
But things continue on to the next morning. With Walter is now arrested and looking at doing some hard time. Nadia has guilt, feels responsible for Walter’s predicament and she is willing to do anything to save him. She makes a deal with Larroquette, who turns out to be a lawyer, that if he can spring Willis she’ll marry him. Larroquette manages it, thanks to Daniels the judge being his father. In exchange for this good deed, Nadia is forced to marry Larroquette. The wedding is scheduled and Willis wants to stop it and win back Basinger.
It’s what goes down at the mansion that really looks like something out of an Edwards movie from the 1960s. Willis sneaking around, an angry doberman chasing him, slipping on golf balls, doors being slammed, pratfalls, put upon servants, It plays as a very old fashioned type of screwball comedy. It goes on for quite a long time, and I just never found very funny.
The setups aren’t very clever and it plays as much staler and old fashioned than what came before. Edwards could stage elaborate and funny situations at a big house. Rewatching this section, I was immediately reminded of Edwards’ entertaining 1968 comedy The Party, with Peter Sellers where he created mayhem at a ritzy Hollywood party. But the gags and predicaments in Blind Date are much more forced and the stakes don’t feel as high to help the comedy.
It’s pretty silly if you think about it. Willis spends most of the time trying to contact Basinger the night before the wedding, but he has to avoid being seen so there’s a lot of diving into bushes and hiding behind trees.
Ok. But why can’t he just yell for Nadia or try calling her on the phone? What’s with all the cloak and dagger stuff about? The film doesn’t give a good reason, doesn’t raise the stakes of Willis avoiding being seen by Larroquette and make it vital he not be seen during this whole portion. Even in a cartoonish Edwards comedy it’s beneficial to have some kind of reality to make the situation grounded and believable, from there let the silliness build.
It makes little sense and there really aren’t any great payoffs to it anyway. Willis ultimately does the dramatic ‘revealing his presence at the ceremony’, which of course leads to her jumping in the pool and them sharing a kiss. The hoped for Edwards brand of slap stick shenanigans during the house half aren’t that funny compared to when he had the characters being out on the town.
Daniels is the funniest part of the second half. His late introduction gives the only kick the movie gets in that portion. He has some funny sarcastically mean lines towards son Larroquette, who he dislikes quite a bit.
The second half of Blind Date is a real comedown to the more outlandish gags that were taking place in the first half of the film. The Big Date Night has a lot of gags and scenarios that have a gradual build to outrageous moments. There’s the business culture of the 1980s era that poor Walter finds himself in, but doesn’t belong; yuppie culture, the dog eat dog corporate world and trying to move up its ladder, trying to present yourself in a superficial way to others and not allowing to be yourself or holding to your true beliefs.
Willis learns he should pursue his love for music and not spend sleepless nights working on spreadsheets. It takes a nightmare of a date for him to learn that lesson and find his soulmate. That’s the story on its own. It’s also a fun time capsule of 1987 with the fashions, cars and nightclubs where Billy and the Beaters perform.
Willis having to ‘rescue’ Basinger from the wedding feels more like anticlimactic filler. It’s like they pulled the scenario out of a Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedy and it would’ve played pretty much the same. Maybe they didn’t know where else to go with this tale after front loading the film with all the fun disastrous date stuff and decided to simply go with the most predictable tedious route possible to follow it up. So Blind Date blandly makes it’s way to its romantic conclusion.
Blind Date has its moments that have that fun Edwards’ brand of over-the-top comedy he was best known for. And the actors for the most part do well playing it.
It promoted itself as ‘the ultimate date from hell movie’ – and that’s where the best and funniest stuff is. The ‘date’ is the part you’ll remember. That has the parts you’ll remember. The second half turns into an unremarkable blur. The film would’ve been better had it ended when the date did.
A very old school type of trailer with original footage of Willis filmed specifically for the trailer
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