The Perfect Man
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mark Rosman
scr Gina Wendkos
with Hilary Duff, Heather Locklear, Chris Noth, Ben Feldman, Vanessa Lengies, Aria Wallace, Kym Whitley, Carson Kressley, Mike O'Malley, Michelle Nolden, Ashley Newbrough, Dennis DeYoung
release US 17.Jun.05,
UK 30.Sep.05
05/US Universal 1h36

Heartbreakers: Duff and Locklear

duff noth feldman

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The Perfect Man Basically this is one of those harmless teen romantic comedies that girls adore and everyone else suffers through. The good news is that the first half is actually decently written and sometimes insightful, in a simplistic pre-teen sort of way. Then it all goes horribly sappy.

Holly (Duff) is the dutiful 16-year-old daughter to single mother Jean (Locklear), pulling up stakes with little sis Zoe (Wallace) every time Mom has her heart broken. Their new home is Brooklyn, and in an effort to make Mom happy, Holly invents a secret admirer based on the restaurant-owning uncle (Noth) of her new friend (Lengies). Meanwhile, a boy at school (Feldman) notices Holly.

Once the set-up is clear the film is fairly plain sailing, taking its time to untangle the only slightly tousled plot threads so everyone can find love and happiness in storybook land. There's absolutely no originality or complexity--it's easy and formulaic and utterly nonsensical. Performances are solid, with a few sweetly engaging touches along the way and the requisite assortment of colourful side characters to liven up the edges in various wacky ways. Duff carries the film easily enough, although she really should start making movies for girls her age, rather than the 8-year-olds who will like this one. Locklear is relaxed and enjoyable. Noth is stuck in Sex and the City mode as the suave sophisticate. And so on.

While it floats along, it's fairly enjoyable. We can even cope with the tired cliches, such as Holly's blog narration, the rushed plot or the embarrassingly clunky exposition. Then it starts to circle around itself, adding a ludicrously obvious red herring and ramping up both the moralising and the sentiment. And Wendkos' script simply does not know how to shut off the floodwaters. The film's final third is an unbearably sticky mess, with so many heartwarming messages that you'll have the urge to kick a puppy when you leave the cinema.

cert PG some innuendo 26.Jul.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall