The Perfect Man

“The Perfect Man” is full of people who do stupid things and then are surprised at the consequences. I include the filmmakers in that assessment, too. Here they have taken an impossible starting point, compounded it with an absurd premise, and then set the whole thing ablaze with a series of preposterous plot points — and now they are probably sitting in their offices, wondering why their movie has done so poorly at the box office.

I would say the filmmakers must be retarded, but even the mentally challenged know you should not center a movie around the idea that Heather Locklear is having trouble finding a man. Yet that is the starting point for “The Perfect Man”: Heather Locklear, as a harried single mom named Jean Hamilton, keeps dating one loser after another. And every time a relationship doesn’t work out, she packs up her two daughters — 16-year-old Holly (Hilary Duff) and book-smart 7-year-old Zoe (Aria Wallace) — and moves to a new city.

That’s the absurd premise I mentioned. How crazy would a woman have to be to move to a new city every time a guy dumps her? Why has she granted herself only one dating opportunity per ZIP code? More to the point, is this all the screenwriters could come up with? I get that they want the family to be moving frequently, because a desire to quit moving is what prompts Holly to do what she does next. But was that the only reason they could think of for the nomadism? Jean couldn’t be in the military, or running from the law, or on drugs or something? All they could think of was, “Hey, maybe she moves every time a guy dumps her”?

Anyway, the latest move has taken them to Brooklyn, where Jean is working with friends (how she knows them is a mystery, considering she has never lived in Brooklyn before, nor anywhere else for more than a few months) at a bakery. Holly quickly makes a friend named Amy (Vanessa Lengies) at school, and attracts the attention of a cute comic book nerd named Adam (Ben Feldman), who is clearly based on Seth Cohen from “The O.C.,” not that I watch that show anymore.

Holly figures what Mom needs in order to stay put is to find the perfect man. Since Holly doesn’t know any, she makes one up. She uses Amy’s uncle Ben (Chris Noth), a local restaurateur and seemingly a near-perfect man, as the model, casually quizzing him on matters of the heart and using his answers in the “secret admirer” letters she writes to her mother.

You are already wondering, “If Ben is such a perfect man, why doesn’t Holly just introduce him to Mom?” The answer is that Holly thinks Ben is engaged — not because anyone has said that, but because Holly witnessed a conversation between him and a woman regarding wedding details. You would think Holly would say to Amy, “Shoot, it’s too bad your uncle Ben is already engaged!,” thus allowing Amy to clear up the confusion. But if that happened, we would not have a movie, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Now, somehow Molly doesn’t foresee that Jean will someday want to meet the man she’s been corresponding with. In fact, she’s so stupid that when Jean wants to see a picture, she sends him a photo of the real Ben — despite the fact that Ben operates a popular restaurant in town and it’s only a matter of time before Jean goes there. Which she eventually does, causing Molly and Amy to do a series of imbecilic, implausible things to keep Jean and Ben from seeing each other, culminating in Molly’s setting off the fire sprinklers to evacuate the building. This must cause thousands of dollars of damage to the restaurant, but hey, at least Jean didn’t see Ben!

I was amused at the part where “Ben” and Jean decide to move their correspondence to e-mail, using a fake account that Molly has created. She doesn’t want to use her own computer, though, for fear Mom will find the e-mails on it — a senseless worry if she’s using something like Hotmail, of course (which she is), since the outgoing messages are kept online and not on the hard drive. But OK, she wants to use a different computer. Amy’s isn’t an option for some reason. So think, think, where could she find a computer to use? She finally decides to ask Adam for the use of his. And then she and Amy leave the public library, where they’ve been sitting, surrounded by dozens of public-access computers, to go ask Adam.

I am in awe at just how stupid this movie is, at how irrationally the characters behave, at how unlike real people they are. It takes idiocy in film to a whole new level. A schlubby man at the bakery who likes Jean takes her to a Styx-tribute concert and then serenades her with a Styx song outside her window: IMPLAUSIBLE. The only reason Jean even goes out with him is that she thinks he’s the secret admirer — again, not because anyone told her that, and not because she ever asked him if he was, but because she assumed it: ILLOGICAL. Adam falls in love with Holly, kisses her on the lips, and then walks away without saying anything: WOULDN’T HAPPEN. Amy thinks the best way to keep Jean from seeing Ben at the restaurant is to fill the place with a million customers, so she puts a sign out front that says Jets fans get free beer and appetizers, thus luring the construction workers in from the street: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Carson Kressley, from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” plays a character that is exactly like himself, yet somehow gayer, more embarrassing and more annoying: HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?

This review is already rather long, and you get the idea — it’s a terrible movie, and you shouldn’t see it — but I want to talk about the screenplay itself. It was written by Gina Wendkos, who previously gave us “Coyote Ugly” and “The Princess Diaries,” two gifts for which we thank the cosmos daily. But the story is credited to three other people, Michael McQuown, Heather Robinson and Katherine Torpey, none of whom have any film-writing credits to speak of.

Now, I have already told you the full thrust of the movie’s story line: Does it sound like the sort of complicated affair that would require three minds in creating it? And if they hatched the story, why couldn’t they write the full screenplay, too? Were they so exhausted by coming up with the most retarded plot outline in film history that they had to hand it off to someone else to finish? Were they like, “Man alive, we are TUCKERED OUT from developing this really, really stupid screen story. We’d better call the woman who wrote ‘Coyote Ugly’ to craft it into a script”? It’s a mystery, that’s for sure.

F (1 hr., 36 min.; PG, some mild thematic material.)