(With Valentine's Day arriving this week, we though we'd dig up some of our old romantic favorites and mix them in with some new stuff. Enjoy.)
By: Christopher Campbell
If you've ever had a bad first date -- and in the age of internet match-ups, it's all the more likely you've had at least a disappointing one -- you're not alone. Thanks to the awkwardness of getting to know somebody, and the nervousness that comes with that, it's a wonder any of us ever have good first dates. But as much as we end up fixating on the failure of a single bad date, we must remember that it's a part of life and has been since the dawn of man, when Adam had to deal with Eve ordering the forbidden item on the menu. Also, we must realize that it's all relative and there's always a worse date out there than the worst we've ever had. Often (and especially because it's Valentine's Day this Saturday), it's a good idea to look to the movies, and compare our worst first date to the worst first dates in cinema:
License to Drive(1988)
Imagine you're all set to get your driver's license, and the hottest girl in school has agreed to go out with you the night you pass the exam. But you don't pass the exam. Then you steal your grandpa's car. Then your date drinks too much and passes out for the rest of the night. Oh, and it only gets worse from there. License to Drive is just one of many films that shows us that a first date can be a crazy mix of Murphy's Law and the snowball effect. Also, like many comedies, it teaches us that an automobile can be destroyed many times over, and that it might be best if our first time driving, as well as our first time dating, be with a car that has little value.
Forget about Corey Haim's escalating troubles in License to Drive. Think about poor Mercedes (Heather Graham) in that movie being photographed down her shirt without her knowledge. I wonder how many kids at school were shown those pictures taken by Corey Feldman. The sleaziness of it reminds me of poor Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) in American Pie being broadcast over the interweb for all her schoolmates to see. Never mind Jim's sexual embarrassment during that study date gone wrong, I feel much worse for any girl who unknowingly ends up a webcam victim. Of course, women can have far, far worse first date experiences than being exploited by voyeurism (see Higher Learning, Bully, American Psycho, countless TV movies).
Men typically don't have experiences that compare. But Hard Candy comes close to showing us the worst that could possibly happen to a guy on a first date. Obviously no man should be making dates on the internet with 14-year-old girls, so it's not quite the same. We shouldn't feel bad for Patrick Wilson being psychologically (and seemingly physically) tortured by Ellen Page, but then it's also not the easiest thing for a male viewer to cheer on the castration of another dude -- no matter how despicable he may be.
Making a date with a minor is probably the worst dating idea a guy can have. But here is another stupid idea: taking a respectable girl to a porno theater. It was bad enough when Dustin Hoffman took Katherine Ross to a strip club in The Graduate. At least he got the girl in the end, anyway. There was no chance, however, of Cybill Shepherd falling for Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver after such a wrong choice in first date activities.
Another bad idea is to take out the wife of your boss. Sometimes, though, it's the boss' idea. So, the best thing to do is just hope nothing goes wrong. Like, for instance, her finding your baggy of heroin and thinking it is cocaine. Then snorting it and overdosing. There's not much more of a date buzz-killer than having to plunge a syringe into your lady-friend's heart. Even if it kind of sounds romantic in a metaphoric sort of way.
Play It Again, Sam(1972)
When I think of awkward dates, I think of Woody Allen in the adaptation of his play, Play It Again, Sam. Consider it a lesson in why trying to act cool on a first date is just a set-up for disaster. Allen wants so hard to be Humphrey Bogart, and even (in his imagination) takes dating advice from the actor. But check out this hilarious clip to see how his trying to impress leads to slapstick clumsiness. The only dating scene that might be funnier and more awkward is this one from I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.
No list of worst first dates is complete without Blake Edwards' comedy, even if it isn't that good, in which Bruce Willis experiences more of the old Murphy's Law and the snowball effect when he goes out with Kim Basinger, playing a woman who (like Mercedes in License to Drive) can't hold her alcohol. But worse: her jealous ex-boyfriend is following them around, and eventually Willis ends up in jail. Then also there is Mystery Date, a movie that isn't much better, in which Ethan Hawke goes out with his dream girl, Teri Polo, and everything goes wrong thanks to a case of mistaken identity. If I remember correctly, though, each of these dating disaster movies finishes with the guy getting the girl anyway.
So remember this on Valentine's Day: Just because a first date seems to go all wrong, it could really have gone all right.