February 14, 2008

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The Hottie and the Nottie (PG-13)
Paris Hilton sort of tries to “act” in the shallow little fairy tale about hot girls and their snaggle-toothed friends The Hottie and the Nottie, a movie that seems perfect for the direct-to-discount-video market.

After all — not to sound like too much of a catty “nottie” — isn’t video where Hilton has done her best work?

Nate Cooper (Joel Moore) has been in love with Cristabel (Hilton) since they were both in the first grade. And since then, Cristabel has been friends with June Phigg (Christine Lakin), an unfortunate girl with bad skin and worse teeth. Flash forward two decades and a grown-up Nate is as besotted with the memory of his feelings for Cristabel as ever. After the break-up of yet another of his unhappy relationships, he seeks her out in Los Angeles, where he finds that she is still a friend of June, who still has a variety of cosmetic problems keeping her social development down. It’s the rule of the hottie and the nottie, an emotionally stunted friend tells Nate: the hotter a girl is, the less attractive her best friend will be.

Leaving aside for a moment the likelihood of a woman living in Los Angeles being unaware of the many dental and dermatological services that could improve her image — June is funny and smart-ish (in the universe of this movie) but bitter and deeply insecure. Nate, however, is even more deeply insecure and has convinced himself that he can never be happy with anyone but Cristabel. He befriends his childhood sweetheart — even after she tells him of her plan to swear off dating until June finds happiness — and sets to work giving the Extreme Makeover treatment to June.

What is it Winston Churchill said? Something like: “I may be a nottie, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be Paris Hilton.” In any event, there are worse things than bad skin and errant facial hair. One could be a tabloid celebrity of questionable talent who spends an entire movie sigh-breathing one’s lines and presenting an altogether one-dimensional on-screen presence. One could have stumbled one’s way into a strange, student-film-project-like movie, seemingly for lack of anything better to do, and be stuck there for a full 90 minutes of screen time.

Lakin (who in real life could not on her most bad-hair, pale-skin, fat-pants day be a “nottie”) and Moore (who seems to be putting himself in the running for any roles that Tom Green or Jon Heder might turn down) play thin characters. The dialogue feels like a fourth-generation copy of an imitation Farrelly brothers movie. The story makes She’s All That feel like a literal translation of Pygmalion. But it’s really Hilton’s perfume commercial performance that convinces you that the film has no redeeming value. We — at least I think — are supposed to like her, think of her as a nice person, want Nate to realize his slightly creepy life-long dream of winning her love. But, regardless of what a shlub Nate is, you get the sense that even his sad-sack torch-carrying is far too normal for her. In one scene, the movie briefly lets you believe that Cristabel might be crazy. Hilton is no more convincing about this than any other part of her performance but there’s just enough of the loony-eyes about Hilton here to believe that Nate should run far far away.

There’s no law requiring heiresses to start charitable foundations, open soup kitchens or otherwise repay society for their lucky birthrights. But you’d think that the spirit of noblesse oblige would at least convince them not to torment us commoners with movies such as this. D-

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content. Directed by Tom Putnam and written by Heidi Ferrer, The Hottie and the Nottie is an hour and 31 minutes long and is distributed by Regent in limited release.