Material Girls review by Mike Long

While watching a film which has an offbeat vibe, I will often look at my wife and say, "At whom is this movie aimed?" Typically, I mean this as a joke. This wasn't the case with Material Girls. I can only assume that the movie, starring sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff, was made because the Olsen Twins left some niche which needed to be filled (insert your own joke here). But why the movie was made doesn't answer the question of who it was made for. The movie apparently didn't make a splash with Hilary Duff fans...and where is it going to go from there?

Hilary and Haylie Duff star in Material Girls as Tanzie and Ava Marchetta, rich socialites who are heir to the Marchetta Cosmetics fortune. They also serve as the "faces" of Marchetta. However, the girls aren't very connected to the business side of Marchetta -- they leave that to CEO Tommy Katzenbach (Brent Spiner) -- and they spend most of their time partying. The company was founded by their father, who has been dead for two years, and Tanzie still mourns his passing. Tanzie dreams of attending UCLA to study science, while Ava obsesses over her pre-engagement to TV star Mic (Brandon Beemer).

But, their world comes crashing down around them when an expose-style TV show reports that Marchetta's face cream causes deep scarring. The girls soon find that their assets have been frozen and that their "friends" have turned their backs on them. They move in with their housekeeper Inez (Maria Conchita Alonso) and try to find ways to earn money. Tanzie, ever faithful to her father, is convinced that the accusations against the company must be erroneous. She enlists a lawyer who devotes his time to the poor (Lukas Haas) and a chemist (Marcus Coloma). Is this scandal tied to the fact that rival Fabiella (Anjelica Huston) wants to take over Marchetta? Tanzie and Ava must live the lives of "normal" people in order to learn the truth.

Among the first few DVDs that I reviewed here at was the Hilary Duff vehicle The Lizzie McGuire Movie (which I'm sure thrilled Matt and Tom), and that movie was much better than it had any right to be. Unfortunately, Material Girls doesn't receive the same kudos.

Material Girls is one of those films which is truly hard to review. To be perfectly fair, it's not a bad movie, as it is competently made, has a cast of familiar faces, and has a coherent story. However, it's certainly a pointless movie. Given the fact that Hilary Duff is a performer who appears to be very cognizant of her career (as she made a smooth transition from a TV show to a singing career to movies), one would have to wonder why she would be involved in such a banal film.

The main flaw with Material Girls is that it's woefully unoriginal. How many times have we seen the "poor little rich girl" routine in a movie? The story in which a rich person hits hard times and must pull themselves up by their bootstraps (or high-heel shoes) in order to succeed. Even younger viewers will find this idea hackneyed. Every element of the script, from the girl's downfall to the desertion of their friends to the villainous rival to the making of new allies, everything in this movie feels old and tired. This issue is exacerbated by the lack of character development in the script. When a movie asks an audience to feel sorry for rich people, it had better make those people appealing in some way, and Material Girls fails in that respect. Simply put, every moment of the movie is predictable.

Predictable is OK, as long as the movie is entertaining, right? Well, Material Girls fails on that front as well. Supposedly, the movie is mean to be a light comedy, but aside from one insult, the film isn't funny. The script ensures that there's no suspense, and there's no drama to be had either. (Although there is one moment between Inez and the girls which is touching.) So, again the question must be raised, "At whom is this movie aimed?" Adults aren't going to go out of their way to see it, but the subject matter is probably a bit too mature for the tweens who love Hilary Duff.

Director Martha Coolidge helmed two classic films from the 80s, Valley Girl and Real Genius, and she also had some success in the 90s. But, her last theatrical film, The Prince & Me was awful and Material Girls is toothless. It's sad to see a once great artist lose their way like this. Likewise, it's unfortunate to see a young talent who isn't all that annoying (Hilary Duff) suffer a mis-step like this. We are living in a material world and I didn't care for Material Girls.

Material Girls falls from grace onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, which isn't surprising considering the fact that this movie played in theaters just a few months ago. The image is sharp and clear for the most part, as the picture shows no grain and no defects from the source material. However, the image is a bit soft at times and some scenes are lacking in detail. The colors look fine and the framing appears to be accurate. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and the incidental music in the film sounds very good. There are several street and crowd scenes which offer limited surround sound effects. However, given the fact that this is a small comedy, the audio isn't overwhelmingly impressive.

The Material Girls has a few extras. Director Martha Coolidge provides an AUDIO COMMENTARY in which she discusses the making of the film. She's neither overly-excited or morose on the track, and simply states fact about the movie. It is clear that she got along well with the Duffs. "Getting to Know Hilary and Haylie as the Marchetta Sisters" (10 minutes) is an interview with the siblings as they discuss their characters and what it was like making the film. "Cast of Characters: The Making of Material Girls" is a 10-mintue featurette which has comments from Coolidge, the writers and the cast. There are also a lot of clips and only a small amount of on-set footage. There is a MUSIC VIDEO for Hilary Duff's song "Play with Fire". Another extra is the "Material Girls Music Montage" (2 minutes). Wasn't that the entire film? The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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