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"Material Girls" Is Ridiculous to the Extreme

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2006 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
"Material Girls" Is Ridiculous to the Extreme

DVD Release Date:  December 12, 2006
Theatrical Release Date:  August 18, 2006
Rating:  PG (for language and rude humor)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time: 99 min.
Director:   Martha Coolidge
Actors:  Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, Maria Conchita Alonso, Lukas Haas, Brent Spiner, Marcus Coloma, Ty Hodges, Obba Babatunde

Oh, boy.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie this bad.  Any movie.  But I do know what that movie was.  And, come to think of it, “New York Minute” also starred sisters playing sisters (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) and was aimed at young girls.  Wow.  What a coincidence.

“Material Girls” introduces us to two rich teens, Tanzie (Hilary Duff) and Ava Marchetta (Haylie Duff), who are “the face of” and the heiresses to the prestigious Marchetta Cosmetics company, founded by their dead father.  Like another couple of heiresses in the media right now, these ladies live a life of luxury.  They party at nightclubs with their best (gay male) friend and celebrity boyfriend.  They shop.  They model.  And they’re famous for being famous.

When the girls learn that Fabiella Cosmetics, run by arch-rival Fabiella (Anjelica Huston), is trying to take over Marchetta, they aren’t concerned.  Business, what business?  Although Tanzie would like to go to UCLA to study chemistry, the girls mostly just want to keep modeling and partying.  But after an investigative journalist runs a report about some long-buried complaints, the company’s stock plummets and all the girl’s “friends” dump them.  Ava isn’t even allowed into her own engagement party (where her TV star boyfriend dumps her, via his agent).  And for some unexplained reason, the girls’ personal bank accounts are cut off.  After they then burn down their mansion and leave their only car, with keys, in a rough neighborhood (they assumed the thief was a valet), they’re left with nothing – not even a Dolce & Gabbana nightgown – and must move in with the maid (Maria Conchita Alonso).

The way to solve their problems, says the Marchetta CEO (Brent Spiner) and their father’s best friend, is to allow Fabiella to buy them out.  But $60 million apiece just isn’t enough.  Boo hoo.  The girls therefore opt to “investigate” the claims of the alleged victims, with the help of a pro bono, non-profit lawyer.  In the process, they fall in love and live happily ever after with a parking valet and the lawyer, become wonderful people and find the cure for cancer.  Oh, wait.  Not that last bit.  Or the one before.  Because finally reuniting your maid with her kids and making cosmetics affordable for prostitutes – which summarizes the girl’s entire character transformation – does not make one into a caring, compassionate individual.  Outside of Hollywood, anyway.

Every bit of dialogue is a cliché (“Oh, where’s the spa when we need it?”), and none of it is funny.  Several plot points are established (like how Huston’s character knows Ava likes massages) only to peter out, without explanation.  And, so many things are just plain absurd.  Like why Tanzie doesn’t have a car (they can only afford one?); why the girls don’t dial 911 from their diamond-encrusted cell phones as they’re driving away from the fire; why there was never any talk about insurance money, after that fire; why “friends” would shun two celebrities, simply because their stock is dropping (like nobody attended Tom Cruise’s wedding); and why the girls would assume their maid has valet-parking, given her scary, downtrodden neighborhood that they’ve never visited (but have no trouble finding, without a map or directions).  Need I go on?

Director Martha Coolidge has a long line of directorial credits, including the 1983 hit “Valley Girl,” the more recent “The Prince and Me,” an episode of “CSI” and several episodes of “Sex in the City.”  Not exactly Oscar-nominated work, but this choice defies explanation.  Except, I guess, the paycheck.  Which probably says it all – including the reason she didn’t edit out Hilary’s “oops,” when she called her sister by name (“Haylie” instead of “Ava”) onscreen.

Then there’s the acting.  Now, I really like Hilary Duff.  I have personally interviewed her and think she is a very sweet-natured, beautiful gal.  (Of course, why she came to our interview flanked by three bulky bodyguards, in a Beverly Hills conference room filled with scrawny journalists and PR reps, is beyond me – but that’s another story.)  I also think she’s a decent role model, generally speaking, and she reportedly wants to choose projects that will not jeopardize that.  So good for her.  That being said, Miss Duff should probably stick to singing, where she does very well.  And, while I don’t want to go Simon Cowell on her or anything, acting is simply not her thing.  Ditto for big sis.

The brief reprieves in the movie come from actors like Huston (although her role is so tired – we’ve seen this way too many times) and Obba Babbatunde (“The Manchurian Candidate”).  I’d like to compliment Lukas Haas, but his entire performance had me wondering if he was really Adam Sandler in disguise.  And, while Alonso is decent in her role, could we possibly get a bigger caricature?

This movie is ridiculous to an extreme – and completely inappropriate for its target audience as well.  It contains multiple sexual references and unsuitable language (“Sh-- happens,” says the lawyer, obviously going for a profundity).  The girls dress like prostitutes and even interact with them, at one point, yet never do anything to really help.  And finally, there simply is no message – much less a decent role model – anywhere to be seen.  I’d say this film is cotton candy, but that stuff actually tastes good.

AUDIENCE:  Older teens and up

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Commentary by director Martha Coolidge
  • Featurette: "Cast of Characters: The Making of Material Girls"
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Widescreen Feature
  • Featurette: "Getting to Know Hilary and Haylie as The Marchetta
    Sisters"
  • Music Video: Hilary Duff "Play With Fire"

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking in clubs; cigarette smoking (which is rebuked); character offers to give another character some of her Prozac to calm her down.
  • Language/Profanity:  Strong for this audience, including several obscenities.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Overtly gay character; mocking reference to “making love;” character talks about wanting to “jump on” someone; characters dress provocatively – including one scene where high school girl dresses much like a prostitute; scene in jail with sexily clad prostitutes; character talks about sleeping with another character’s father.
  • Violence:  Mild peril but mostly physical humor; reference to an untimely death; while in jail prostitutes approach another character and touch her in sexual/threatening ways.