The Perfect Man
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The Perfect Man

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There is one important thing to remember when considering the success of a film, its target audience. While there are films that can cross the generations some movies are intended to work primarily with one age group. This is the case with the romantic comedy, ‘The Perfect Man’. It is intended for that lucrative demographic, girl ‘tweens’. These are children just prior to the age of puberty with a growing amount of clout in business. This film is just right for those young girls who can watch Hillary Duff and reenact scenes with their Barbie, Skipper and Ken dolls. Adults may have the tendency to concentrate too much on plot wholes, inconsistencies and a generally simplistic plot to see that for young girls there is much to enjoy with this film. Jean Hamilton (Heather Locklear) is a single mother with two young daughters, Holly (Hillary Duff) who is sixteen and seven year old Zoe (Aria Wallace). Like so many single parents Jean is still young enough to be looking for love. The downside is she takes breakups extremely poorly, uprooting the family and moving to a city as far away as possible. While this seems implausible to adults watching just consider this from the vantage point of a ten year old girl. I have a daughter who is thankfully an adult now but when she was that age every problem just made her want to move away from a disappointment and start fresh. Personally I think someone would call Social Services on a mother that drastically disrupts her family every time a man dumps her but then again I’m not a ten year old girl! Once ensconced in the new city, this time New York City, Jean finds solace in baking. She puts Martha Stewart to same with her devotion to flour, eggs and milk. This does work in a fashion for the family since Jean is able to land a job at the bakery own by an old friend. Holly is at the age where she wants more social stability in her life. She is tired of being moved and having to go through the arduous teen process of reestablishing her place in the local social structure and making new friends. When Holly sees her mother header for another doomed relationship with bakery co-worker Lenny (Mike O'Malley), Holly hatches a plot with her new best friend Amy (Vanessa Lengies). Holly is still angry that her mother’s last move resulted in her missing the prom so she is determined to stop the madness. The girls invent a secret admirer, the perfect man, to keep Jean form setting her sights on Lenny. Love notes are written, flowers sent and emails start coming to Jean from a mysterious man. This perfect man is loosely based by the girls on the handsome owner of a local restaurant, Ben Cooper (Chris Noth). As the film goes on the comedy is based on the problems Holly and Amy have in perpetuating the hoax. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

I found it best to try to turn off all the adult functions of my mind while watching this film. Without that exercise I would concentrate far too much on how improbable the plot line is. This is not a film to be over analyzed; you have to take it for what it is, a romantic comedy for a specific age and gender. Looking back at my daughter’s younger years I could see that there are elements her that would work for the younger set. First there is the child’s desire to affect the actions of the parent, to take control of the direction of the family. In a manner similar to Disney’s ‘The Parent Trap’ it is up to the daughter to find love for the parent. After all what does an adult know of such matters? Next, there is the conspirator relationship between young girls. It is natural for two girls to plot and scheme. Usually these are flights of fancy but here the girls can watch as two girls actually bring the scheme to action. The film also shows that the mother, for all her faults is a good provider. They managers to get a New York City apartment that would cost thousands a month, not bad on a bakery salary. Here is another case of the parent acting out in a childish way, running from a failure, while the daughter has to take the lead in correcting the situation.

The cast here actually works very well. The actors do manage a better than average chemistry vital to any romantic comedy. Heather Locklear has a talent for comedy, no matter how silly. Instead of always banking on her looks she is not above looking silly in front of the camera. She plays Jean as an obsessed person who finds escape from her romantic failures in baking, a far more positive out let. Hillary Duff is the main draw for the film. She has a large fan base of young girls who would demand seeing this film just because Duff is staring in it. Unlike other pop princesses, Duff is taking ancillary roles and light leads like this as she grows into the role of film star. Instead of trying at this stage of her career for heavy dramatic roles she is content at playing to her strengths as she hones her craft. She is cute, likable and perky, just the thing for a role like this. Vanessa Lengies seems to be making a career for herself as the best friend. There is a lot to her portrayal of Amy that is borrowed from her role on the television series ‘American Dreams’. Amy is a spirited Brooklynite who is the perfect contrast to the more home spun Holly. You can see how these two girls would become fast friends. In the trailers it seems that Chris Noth is a main character. While his role here is an ancillary one he was put in the cast to give the mothers who wind up taking their daughters to see this flick something to watch.

Universal always gives their best to any release and this is no exception. The Dolby 5.1 audio is generally robust with a very good sound stage. There is a moderate channel separation but overall the use of the speakers is very good. The sub woofer is generally silent but that is to be expected considering the genre. The video is crisp and without defects or compression artifacts. It is bright and colorful with excellent balance. There is a better than average selection of extras provided on the DVD. Most are intended for the same demographic but they are enjoyable by the parents that may happen to be in the room. "Hangin’ with Hillary" is a little talk with the pop star that young girls will enjoy. There is a corresponding "Hangin’ with Heather" slated more for the adults watching. The deleted scenes and bloopers are fun to watch as is the little featurette on the creation of all the cakes used in the bakery scenes. If you have daughters between nine and twelve this will be a welcome purchase for your home.

Posted 11/2/05

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