- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

“The Perfect Man” turns out to be perfect in all the wrong ways.

Its pristine Brooklyn setting is nowhere near the real deal, and its perfectly beautiful matriarch (Heather Locklear) could only be lonely in some Hollywood fiction.

Worst of all are the lumps of perfectly awful dialogue and instant messages ricocheting around this trite vehicle for teen starlet Hilary Duff.

Miss Duff, she of the blazing brown eyes, is once again trotted out as a potential movie star, despite the lukewarm reception for “Raise Your Voice” and “A Cinderella Story,” both released last year.

She’s squeaky clean, a refreshing notion in the age of Britney, but her turn in “Perfect” confirms she’s best suited to the small screen, where she once starred as “Lizzie McGuire.” Her eye-darting tics and pinched shoulder entrances will seem endearing, not annoying, in a more modest setting.

In “Perfect,” she stars as Holly, a teen hoping her single mother (Miss Locklear) will finally settle down with Mr. Right. Whenever mama Jean gets dumped, and it happens quite often, she up and moves in search of a fresh start, her two daughters in tow.

It happens yet again as the film opens. Our trio settles into an idealized New York where Jean finds work as a pastry chef. (Somehow, the gig affords them enough cash to live in a sumptuous home with the kind of decor it normally takes years to assemble.) In hopes of diverting her mom from any more thoughts about plastic foam peanuts and moving vans, Holly conjures a faux beau for her.

The teen draws inspiration from a real ladies man, the handsome uncle of a school friend. Uncle Ben (Chris Noth of “Sex and the City” fame) gives Holly tips on how a gentleman should woo a lady, and Holly takes that advice and pours it into a series of letters and e-mails signed by a secret admirer for her desperate mom.

Holly’s handiwork keeps her from recognizing a perfectly good boyfriend for herself in classmate Adam (Ben Feldman, playing just the right combination of eclectic and sweet).

Naturally, Holly’s scheme backfires, and it’s up to her to salvage both her mom’s dignity and any chance Jean has of actually meeting Uncle Ben.

Tepid teen movies often skate by on the strength of their supporting casts, but “The Perfect Man” doesn’t have a deep bench. Comic Mike O’Malley plays a shlubby would-be beau whose obsession with Styx begins with a funny set piece but quickly goes south.

Caroline Rhea fares worse as a fellow baker whose New Yawk accent is her only stab at humor. And poor Carson Kressley from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” is asked to play a swishy barkeep whose lines aren’t nearly as funny as his show’s ad-libs.

“The Perfect Man” also buffs the edges off of Mr. Noth’s dry charisma while keeping his character separate from Jean for far too long.

Teens will likely giggle over Miss Duff’s moxie and find a dreamboat like Mr. Feldman worth the price of admission. Their parents will wish for a movie in which their children might learn a lesson about the perils of perfection.

*1/2

TITLE: “The Perfect Man”

RATING: PG (Some mildly suggestive material)

CREDITS: Directed by Mark Rosman. Screenplay by Gina Wendkos. Produced by Marc Platt, Dawn Wolfrom and Susan Duff.

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

WEB SITE: www.theperfectmanmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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