The Perfect Man
2005, PG, 96 min. Directed by Mark Rosman. Starring Hilary Duff, Heather Locklear, Chris Noth, Mike O’Malley, Vanessa Lengies, Ben Feldman, Aria Wallace.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., June 17, 2005
If you love Hilary Duff – her smoky eye make-up, her heavily texturized and casually perfect updos, her low-slung cargos, her youthful Texan pluck – then by all means run right out to this movie, a virtual long-form episode of Lizzie McGuire (minus the irritating animation), directed by a veteran of the series. Be enchanted by her cute bedroom (somehow affordable for a single mother in Brooklyn) and her iBook (ditto) and her miniature claw clips and the dorky but cool cartoonist guy with a crush on her (Feldman). Marvel as she makes a sassy best friend (Lengies) before fully ascending the front steps at her new high school! Watch her explicate the story through the miracle of instant messaging! Less a feature film than 90 minutes of tweenage feminine wish fulfillment, The Perfect Man is like Teen People come to life. It’s perfectly PG, and it’s probably not the worst thing a young lady could see, depending on your criteria. Cinematically, it’s like watching your lawn grow. It will bore the living shit out of anyone not raptly attuned to Duff’s slightest movement. (Look! Her dimple appeared!) And it will insult you. Oh yes. It will insult you with a smarty-farty little sister (Wallace) who’s going to walk away with this year’s Jonathan Lipnicki Award for Wheedling Cuteness. It will insult you by suggesting that a hot New York restaurateur can sit down during Saturday’s dinner rush to counsel his teenage niece about love. It will insult you with scriptwriter platitudes: "You don’t let anybody close enough to hurt you" and "Every day has the potential for beauty!" It’s not truly a howler, like scribe Gina Wendkos’ timeless classic Coyote Ugly, but it does have kind of a weird cult aspect to it if you know where to look. So look for Dennis DeYoung in a truly humiliating cameo as the frontman of a Styx cover band! Look for Queer Eye guy Carson Kressley as – wait for it – a really flaming homosexual who gets a lot of laughs! (Kressley is, of course, the only thing remotely fun about the film.) The trouble is that while it’s professing mad love for single mothers (in the form of Locklear), the film is concomitantly trashing them. In what parallel universe do parents – let alone hot blond MILFs, left alone in the embattled New York City public school system – interrupt a PTA meeting to whine, "I need to meet a good man"? The movie wrings jokes out of poor Locklear, who’s so game and professional despite having very little comic timing, by setting her up for a romance with a Styx-loving meathead (O’Malley) and having her fret about her wrinkles. Of course everything turns out okay, and Duff reassures her that she’s beautiful to her children and can stand on her own, but while the audience should be high-fiving and go-girling and doing everything the producers want us to do, we’re left with the message that hooking up with any dumb old schlub is an improvement over single motherhood. The movie insists on this idea so strenuously as its ostensibly comic premise that it can’t take it back.