by Eric D. Snider
Released: August 18, 2006
This has been a bad year for movies starring teen queens, with Amanda Bynes' "She's the Man" and Lindsay Lohan's "Just My Luck" having already desecrated cinemas with their senseless plots and inane comedy antics. And now Hilary and Haylie Duff's "Material Girls" has arrived to make the trifecta complete.
If I were a teenage girl, I would be insulted to know that Hollywood thinks I will watch any piece of trash, no matter how lame, ill-conceived or sloppy, just because it stars Hilary and Haylie Duff. Being more than twice the age and the opposite gender of the 15-year-old girls at whom the film is aimed, I can only express puzzlement over its utter unfamiliarity with the concept of "funny," and hope that the 15-year-old girls WON'T watch it, or that if they do they won't enjoy it.
Haylie and Hilary play Ava and Tanzie Marchetta, socialite heiresses to a cosmetics company launched by their father, recently deceased. (Their mother's absence is explained in a couple lines two-thirds of the way into the movie.) They are spoofs of the Paris Hilton type of celebutante, making red-carpet appearances and strolling unchecked into swanky nightclubs as cameras flash all around them.
With their father gone, the company's future is somewhat bleak, and competitor Fabiella (Anjelica Huston) wants to buy Marchetta out. The girls won't hear of it. And then word comes that some of their dad's products have been harming customers' faces. Stock prices plunge, the family name is disgraced, and somehow -- I'm not exactly clear on this point -- the girls are INSTANTLY bankrupt.
Ava and Tanzie, now living a riches-to-rags nightmare, must do two things. First, they must clear the Marchetta name and prove the charges against their products are unfounded. Second, they must learn valuable lessons about happiness and how it cannot be bought.
That the film had three writers who between them couldn't come up with a single funny gag is astounding. Put ANY three people, writers or not, in a room together, give them the scenario I've outlined -- "Rich girls suddenly become poor!" -- and surely ONE of them would come up with something. But not John Quaintance, Jessica O'Toole and Amy Rardin. (I am naming them so their shame can be complete.) These three, professional writers all, wrote a 97-minute script where the FUNNIEST THING THEY COULD THINK OF is the two dumb rich girls not knowing that the city bus costs money to ride. The driver puts his hand out and one of the girls says, "I'm not tipping you until I know how your service is." LOL!
The movie (directed by Martha Coolidge, of "Real Genius" and "The Prince & Me" fame) is strangely illogical, too. When one room of the girls' mansion catches on fire, they simply ... get in their car and drive away. They don't wait around for the fire department, who will surely put out the blaze before it destroys the whole house. Nope, the girls are gone, off to stay with their housekeeper Inez (Maria Conchita Alonso) in a bad part of town, where their car gets stolen (they think the thugs are valets), leaving them without transportation, since even though the girls were stinking rich, apparently only ONE of them owned a car. And why not stay in a hotel, if they're so sure the small fire in the den will make the entire mansion uninhabitable? Because with the devastating news about their company's financial situation, their accounts are all frozen. Don't they have PERSONAL accounts somewhere? A few hundred dollars in spending money in their purses? Friends? Evidently not.
And with the allegations that the company's products are unsafe, shouldn't there be a team of company lawyers, already on the staff, working around the clock to disprove the claims? Why does it befall Ava and Tanzie to do all the investigating themselves, Erin Brockovich-style?
And when Tanzie sweet-talks her way into a TV station's file room to sneak a peek at a document, how does she subsequently wind up in jail for "trespassing and attempted theft"? The guy at the front desk let her in (so it's not trespassing), and all she'd done when she got caught by the security guard is LOOK at the document, not steal it.
The news of Marchetta's faulty products is released by a muckraking TV reporter in a prime-time exposÃ©. Later that night, probably 10 or 11, the girls set the fire in their mansion. The NEXT MORNING, both stories are on the front page of the weekly tabloids. This is not even physically possible. A few hours later, a shmoozy Marchetta company exec (Brent Spiner, embarrassing himself) tells the girls that "retailers have already returned 90 percent of our product." This is also not even physically possible, unless the retailers were able to send all the product back via e-mail.
Most of the jokes in the film center on the girls' unfamiliarity with the non-rich world, never in a way that is believable, honest or funny. And the Duffs themselves? It's all ridiculous mincing around and general airheadedness. I barely buy them as sisters, let alone as whoever these characters are supposed to be.
Rated PG, a little mild profanity
1 hr., 37 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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