Duff's 'Man': Nowhere Near Perfect

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 16, 2005

Based on the true story of Heather Robinson, who as a teenager invented an imaginary boyfriend for her single mom and conducted a romantic correspondence with her, "The Perfect Man" is creepy as heck. Not as creepy as the original story, to be sure, but creepy lite. Even Robinson, in an interview in Radar magazine, says she doesn't see how the film, starring the ever-insipid Hilary Duff as the 16-year-old daughter and Heather Locklear as her mother, could possibly be as dark as her own experience and subsequent temporary estrangement from her mother was.

No, dark it is not. Try boring, however.

As written by Gina Wendkos ("The Princess Diaries"), the movie doesn't even seem to know how disturbing, at its heart, its subject matter is, so that it can at least have fun with it. Instead, it turns the events of the plot -- in which meddling high schooler Holly Hamilton (Duff) enlists the assistance of her best friend (Vanessa Lengies), her best friend's hunky uncle (Chris Noth) and her own beau (Ben Feldman) in seducing her mother via gifts, photographs, phone calls, letters and e-mails Holly herself composes -- into a series of cutesy but flat-footed jokes leading up to a foregone romantic conclusion. And if you can't figure out how it's all going to work itself out 15 minutes in, you're just not paying attention.

Not that I could blame you. Even Carson Kressley of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," making an inauspicious big-screen acting debut as a vain and flouncy bartender, wasn't enough to wake me from my stupor. Half of it was the result of progressively numbing amazement at this dysfunctional family, and the other half sheer and utter boredom.

The Perfect Man (PG, 96 minutes) -- Contains a joke about flatulence and mildly suggestive humor . Area theaters.

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