August 24, 2006

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Material Girls (PG)
The Duff sisters, Haylie and Hilary, have a contest to see who can make that girly tssk of pissyness the most in Material Girls, a movie that, like, totally teaches us about taking charge of your life and whatever.

Do you know the noise of which I speak? It's not just a simple tssk of disapproval, like your mom or a teacher might have thrown at you while wagging a finger. It's not just a tssk of you-mean-don't-have-my-shoe-size?-like disappointment. There is an uhff of exhaled air (pushed, for extra emphasis, out both the mouth and the nose) that follows, and even often overtakes the tssk, so that frequently the accent is on that uhff, which is frequently punctuated by an eye roll.

Tskuuuhff, eye roll — is the gesture in total. Hear it once and it is mildly annoying, like the occasional uhm or you know. Hear it a dozen times and it is bug-bite-at-your-sock-line irritating — like that uptick? That puts questions marks? At the end of every phrase? In a sentence? (Hearing the uptick and the tskuuuhff in combination can cause some people to have epileptic fits. Or at least, that will be my reasoning for receiving hazard pay the next time the Duffs appear together in a film.)

I swear there are at least two scenes in this movie where that sound — that horrible sound that becomes more horrible, exponentially, every time you hear it — constitutes the majority of the dialogue. By the end of the scene, I began to wonder if there was a way I could wear earplugs or possibly an iPod turned to full volume and still review the movie.

Tanzie (Hilary) and Ava (Haylie) Marchetta are the daughters of a now-deceased cosmetics company founder. As his heiresses, they are the face of the make-up line and they are filthy, stinking, wear-each-designer-outfit-once-and-then-give-it-to-the-Columbian-maid rich. They take their job as the Hiltons of Los Angeles seriously, attending all the best clubs, dating the stars of teen soaps and generally behaving like they have the brains of those little dogs their ilk usually carry around.

But then scandal hits (a moisturizer that gives users a skin rash that looks like small pox), and the girls lose their big mansion, their fortunes and their fame. Their only chance of getting it back is selling the company to a competing company owned by Fabiella (Anjelica Huston). It's what the Marchetta business manager Tommy (Brent Spiner, who plays the role like he's running a three-card-monte game on Coney Island, circa 1945) wants them to do. But the girls aren't so sure they want to sell out their dad's name so quickly. The only way to save the family reputation is to investigate the allegations against the products and get the company's board, Tommy and Fabiella to take them seriously.

Also, they each meet new boyfriends, because, I don't know, it's required by law.

There is exactly one reason to see this movie — Brent Spiner tosses off a throwaway line as he walks into offices so plush and space age the doors open as you approach them. Whether one "beam me up" is worth your $6.50 depends, I suppose, on how many of the different iterations of the Next Generation uniform you own.

I guess those Sci-Fi-Cons aren't paying out like they used to, or perhaps there was some delay in the production of the next series of Data action figures. Whatever Spiner's reason for being here, he at least appears to be having more fun than Huston or Maria Conchita Alsono, who plays the sisters' maid.

The story's bubble-gum-covered message about believing in oneself bobs about like a lone broccoli floret of nutritional value in a sea of melted Velveeta. This one thematic crumb, however, is not enough to redeem the story nor are any of the performances enough to make this disposable entertainment enjoyable (watching the Duffs attempt "sexual chemistry" with their respective love interests is embarrassingly awful). The Duffs have essentially produced a really long lip gloss commercial and managed to convince a studio that there was enough "movie stuff" in it to make people (by which I mean 12-year-old girls who aren't allowed to go to the mall and so have to hang out with friends somewhere else) pay admission.

Tskuuuhff, god, Duffs, is this, like, the best you can do? D

— Amy Diaz


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