'Material Girls'


"I'm God's personal joke," wails Haylie Duff to her real-life and cinema sibling Hilary Duff in "Material Girls."

How can somebody be irritating yet bland? The showbiz sisters manage to be both in the first of many promised -- or is it threatened? -- on-screen pairings.

Ava and Tanzie Marchetta (Haylie and Hilary) are the faces of and heiresses to the Marchetta all-natural cosmetics company. The girls prefer to eschew the boardroom in favor of nightclubs and shops on Rodeo Drive, but before they can inherit the company, it's ruined by the scandalous revelation that one of their skin creams causes horrible facial scarring.

Things get much worse after that: the shareholders want to sell Marchetta to makeup rival Fabiella (Angelica Houston), the sisters' house catches fire, their credit cards get canceled and their car is stolen (courtesy of Hilary's real-life boyfriend Joel Madden of band Good Charlotte). What are these poor little rich girls to do but actually do some -- gulp -- work to clear their dear, departed father's name and save the company?

The Marchettas are obviously supposed to be a wink at socialites Paris and Nicky Hilton, but the Duffs come across more as Hilton Lite: too cute, too chirpy, too parodied. The problem is that just watching rich people enjoy themselves isn't that thrilling, and the Duffs fall into the school of mediocre, face-scrunching acting.

Bad acting aside -- since the same fans of Hilary's previous projects obviously don't mind -- seeing the sisters interact is actually kind of boring because their mannerisms are too similar despite efforts to give them distinct personalities. The film eventually becomes tolerable once they separate to conduct their investigation, allowing each to get in wacky situations, such as Hilary's attempt at an Erin Brockovich-style ploy complete with cleavage-enhancing bustier.

Uninspired dialogue like "You're all frosting and no cupcake" and "You smell like Satan's armpit" are the norm in this almost mirthless comedy. There are a number of industry jokes that nobody except a single creepy man sitting of the corner of the auditorium laughed at, but the kids will prefer the more slapstick stuff like a scene where the girls are forced to jump in a dumpster.

"One Tree Hill" guest star Marcus Coloma provides the suitably dreamy love interest for Hilary, but Lukas Haas is strangely miscast as Haylie's pro bono lawyer/main squeeze. Despite his real age (30) and a determined bit of 'stache on his upper lip, he seems too young and indie for the 21-year-old Haylie.

Frankly, this easily could have been a made-for-TV movie given the uniformly unexceptional acting, plot and production values, including one moment when I could have sworn Hilary accidentally called Haylie by her real name. But it's just bland, not offensive. Watchful parents will approve of the girls' can-do attitude, minimal romance except for chaste kisses and numerous "no smoking" messages.

And kids? Really it's all about seeing more of Hilary. Haylie's okay too.

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