2 stars (out of four)
"The Perfect Man" is so 2005.
Hilary Duff's character, a fresh-faced teenager named Holly, has a blog to which she posts while looking out the window like Carrie Bradshaw's wholesome younger sister. And her single mom, Jean, played by a similarly fresh-faced Heather Locklear, says things like, "Have you seen these lines? I'm in a race against time," with the only race the one between her cheeks and eyes to the top of her head.
But still, "The Perfect Man" is so 1982, billed as a "romantic comedy about holding things together -- even when everything threatens to fall apart." Heroines Jean, a cake decorator, and Holly move into a nicer home in Brooklyn than they had in Wichita and attend parent-children-teacher assemblies at P.S. In Your Dreams, with students straight out of "My Cousin Vinny."
Though actually, "The Perfect Man" is so 1955, as Caroline Rhea channels Miss Adelaide for her appearance as Jean's gum-smacking, sass-backing co-worker, and Chris Noth plays a suave, charming, old-fashioned gentleman, the kind who knows how to treat a classy dame.
(It's also worth noting that, with Carson Kressley of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" stretching for the role of a flaming homosexual bartender, "The Perfect Man" is so 2003.)
What this all means is that "The Perfect Man" comes to you in a bubble where time and place -- the cornerstones of reality -- are of no consequence, and the only matter at hand is getting us to buy lines like "Now I don't just have a homepage, I have a home."
Rewind: Jean, a single mom to daughters Holly and Zoe, is plagued by her tragic attraction to losers, cheaters and hustlers. Each time a relationship goes bad, Jean packs up the girls and hits the road. "Adventure," says Holly. "That's my mom's word for running away."
Running from Kansas to New York, Jean nabs a job at a great neighborhood bakery and enrolls Holly at yet another high school, where she just happens to become fast friends with the niece of Ben Cooper (Noth), a debonair restaurateur and so-called perfect man. To prevent her mother from falling for another bad apple, like Styx-obsessed Lenny from work, Holly pumps Ben for courting counsel -- orchids are for women, roses are for grandmas -- and uses his advice to create Jean's phantom admirer, Ben.
Along the way, Holly falls for Adam, a cute guy at school who draws comics, but she has trouble giving herself over mind, body and spirit for fear that Jean could shove her in a car at any moment. Instead, she hangs out in Adam's bedroom, instant-messaging her mother from "China," where "Ben" is "opening a restaurant."
This all makes Jean very happy -- so happy she could dance. So happy she does dance, with Holly and Zoe singing backup in the living room as only daughters of single mothers in movies can do.
I've had the unique pleasure of reviewing almost all of Duff's movies, and if there's one thing to say about the girl, she's consistent: nice, sweet, blond, inoffensive and uninspiring. She's an appropriate match to Gina Wendkos' bland script and "Lizzie McGuire" vet Mark Rosman's workmanlike direction.
Then there's Mrs. Richie Sambora. Not sure which Tinseltown genius thought to cast Locklear as a desperate housewife, but putting aside her good looks, which poor Heather can't be blamed for, she does a pretty good job rising above the B-list material, shedding her Heatherness and playing middle class.
Eventually, the web of lies unravels, Ben and "Ben" converge and we all realize two things: Noth is way too good for this stuff, and blogs are totally over.
"The Perfect Man"
Directed by Mark Rosman; written by Gina Wendkos; photographed by John R. Leonetti; edited by Cara Silverman; production designed by Jasna Stefanovic; music by Christophe Beck; produced by Marc Platt and Dawn Wolfrom. A Universal Pictures release; opens Friday, June 17. Running time: 1:36. MPAA rating: PG (some mildly suggestive content).
Holly Hamilton - Hilary Duff
Jean Hamilton - Heather Locklear
Ben Cooper - Chris Noth
Zoe Hamilton - Aria Wallace
Lenny Horton - Mike O'MalleyCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times