* The Perfect Man
Holly Hamilton (Hilary Duff, left) creates an imaginary secret admirer for her mom, Jean (Heather Locklear, right), in the comedy "The Perfect Man." Aria Wallace plays Holly's sister Zoe.
Rated PG. 96 minutes. Comedy.
Cast: Hilary Duff, Heater Locklear, Chris Noth, Vanessa Lengies, Ben Feldman and Mike O'Malley. Directed by Mark Rosman.
I knew Hilary Duff's latest escapade "The Perfect Man" would have very little in common with say, "The Godfather," so of course, it's important to judge it on its own merits, not against certifiable classics. Under this criteria, I'm sure the film's target audience will thrill to Duff's latest adventure, which is likable enough if you're not old enough to know any better.
For said 30-plus critic and others who find themselves in the theater packed with a bunch of giggling preteens enjoying their summer vacation, "The Perfect Man's" brief 96 minutes isn't anything that can't be sucked up. Better yet, the film provides some worthwhile discussion questions for the ride home.
After years of raising Holly (Duff) and Zoe, (the precocious Aria Wallace -- milked for every drop of cuteness she can muster in her film debut), single mom Jean (Heather Locklear) wants to meet Mr. Right.
The only problem is Jean wants to meet him right now, and it doesn't matter if it's a cop pulling her over, anybody on Match.com, the bread delivery man or the lone dad at Holly's PTA meeting; she's always on the prowl. Since Jean settles for any loser, the relationship comes to a bitter end and like any single parent would, Jean packs up the kids and moves to another state for a new "adventure," as she calls it.
The premise is wildly unbelievable and comes across like something you'd only find in a preteen movie. Jean claims to love her children more than anything else, yet because of a bad breakup she relocates them over and over again. Sure, it makes Jean eccentric, but what sensible person, as this single mom appears to be in every other sense, would move because a relationship ends?
Gina Wendkos' script doesn't allow for an antagonist, so Holly and Jean become each other's worst nightmares. Once they arrive in New York, Holly decides she has had enough with her mother's nomadic ways and plots to stick around a little longer by convincing her mom that the perfect man is in love with her.
With the assistance of her new friend Amy (Vanessa Lengies, "American Dreams") and her Uncle Ben (Chris Noth, "Tooth Fairy"), Holly starts sending her mom flowers and love letters.
The faux lover angle may not be exactly new, but when a daughter is more or less trying to woo her mother, it's weirdly creepy, if not a tad incestuous.
One particular scene has mother and daughter instant messaging each other and Director Mark Rosman (who collaborated with Duff on her TV show and "Cinderella Story") using a split screen to make it appear as if they are in the same room. Rosman doesn't seem to be going for laughs in the scene, which would be the most sensible direction, but it's played as a tender, serious moment that the audience is supposed to find sweet and charming.
Holly's actions are just as cruel and thoughtless as her mother's. This is one of those happily-ever-after movies, yet Holly never seems to think her actions through to their conclusion. Instead she finds herself doing more and more to keep the lie going.
And for such a worldly teen, Holly is oblivious to the fact that the perfect man is the one she's been going to for advice all along. The inevitable pairing of Ben and Jean is so obvious that the audience, including the preteens, will find themselves waiting for everyone in the movie to catch up. Not to mention that Holly seems to be missing the boat on her classmate Adam (Ben Feldman, making his feature film debut), the only male her age introduced so chances are good he'd make for a good love interest albeit in wholesome teen fashion. There's a lesson about the apple not falling too far from the tree here that most audience members would have to be asleep or comatose to miss.
Throughout the film's pratfalls, Duff remains charismatic and dynamic, and Mike O'Malley (CBS' "Yes Dear") provides some genuine laughs as Jean's would-be-suitor Lenny.
"The Perfect Man" is a flawed movie on just about every count for everyone but that niche audience. For them, this should be lighthearted entertainment, but single parents taking their daughters to see it may want to remind them afterwards that they can find their own perfect spouse, thank you very much.
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