Although no one knew his real name until the very end of the long-running series, the character of "Mr. Big" turned out to be the perfect man for Carrie Bradshaw on HBO's "Sex and the City." While Sarah Jessica Parker's character dated various other guys during her time-outs with Big and was often frustrated and annoyed by his ways and her own insecurities, she eventually came around to see that he was right for her.
Apparently realizing that many women might feel the same way about the actor, Chris Noth, who played that character in the hit show, the filmmakers behind "The Perfect Man" have cast him as just that. Rather than the object of his attraction being Carrie/Sarah, however, this around it's Heather Locklear ("Looney Tunes: Back in Action," "Uptown Girls") playing a single mom and habitual dater who uproots her family every time she gets dumped.
With the plot -- penned by Gina Wendkos (the "Princess Diaries" films) -- taking place just a stone's throw from where Carrie and company lived, worked and played, one might get the sense that this is just a big-screen variation of the "SATC" storyline. As directed by Mark Rosman ("A Cinderella Story"), it somewhat is, but it mostly isn't.
That's because the titular subject matter of the TV show has been mostly whitewashed into PG-dom in this starring vehicle for Hilary Duff ("Raise Your Voice," "A Cinderella Story"). Yet, the issue of dating and relationships remains, although they take an odd and somewhat unexpectedly icky turn for the worse that I'll address in a moment.
Like "Picture Perfect" and any number of other such romantic comedies, this one involves a fake suitor who's eventually forced to materialize, albeit this time one created by a teen to brighten her mom's otherwise dreary dating world. As in most such comedies, what starts as a little lie quickly begins to snowball. From that point on, and as the teen and her new friends try to keep things from getting too far out of control, we race through the various hilarious hijinks toward the predictable, romantically happy ending.
While that sort of finale is present, the hilarity isn't. Nor for that matter is any sort of decent or compelling drama. With everything spelled out in big bold letters -- one scene even features a teacher instructing his students about the old saying about plans to deceive leading to the weaving of the proverbial tangled web -- the film is the cinematic equivalent of blunt-force trauma to the head.
And it's a boring and certainly less than involving one at that. Although the premise might not exactly be anything remotely novel, it's certainly lined with obvious potential. Amend that to "unrealized." While watching it plod through its not particularly creative motions, all I could think about were any number of French and other such farces that handle such material with far more skill.
True, the target audience for this film probably wouldn't recognize a farce if it came up and tickled their bare midriffs, but that doesn't mean the filmmakers couldn't have spiced and spruced things up a bit. Instead, they rely on some stock, stereotypical characters for the intended laughs.
Carson Kressley from TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" shows up to play, are you ready, a somewhat flamboyant gay man, while Mike O'Malley ("28 Days," "Pushing Tin") plays the average Joe Schmo who obviously sees a good thing in Heather Locklear. Having him arrive in a vintage Trans Am to transport her to a Styx tribute band concert is initially amusing (especially considering who she was and now is married to), but all of that wears thin rather quickly.
As do the film's "dramatic" moments that really only arrive in force toward the end when Locklear's character finally starts to resemble an actual human being and partially spills the beans regarding her desires and motives. The fact that she does so over the Internet is where the film takes the unexpected turn into Ickyville.
You see, while she thinks she's "conversing" with the perfect man, in reality it's Duff's character (playing her teenage daughter) posing as such. While the incestuous flirting doesn't overtly appear to be intentional, it's hard to miss. Later scenes feature Ben Feldman (TV's "Living with Fran") playing Duff's love interest who also poses as TPM and declares his love for her (also on the computer) when he's really thinking about Duff, and then Locklear poses as Duff's character to talk to Feldman's in what turns out to be a "tadpole" type moment.
All such scenes are supposed to be funny and/or enlightening, but the unintentional subtext overrides all of that (which isn't hard to do since the laughs and drama are anemic at best). And to top it all off, the film looks, sounds and feels like most any other Hilary Duff flick, with the actress pretty much playing the same sort of cute but bland and forgettable character.
Perhaps if her role had been reduced, the middle-aged woman dating element might have had a chance to grow and maybe even succeed in a "Single Mom and the City" fashion. As it stands, "The Perfect Man" is anything but an impeccable film.