by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Hilary Duff as TANZIE MARCHETTA
Haylie Duff as AVA MARCHETTA
Maria Conchita Alonso as INEZ
Anjelica Huston as FABIELLA
Brent Spiner as TOMMY KATZENBACH
Lukas Haas as HENRY BAINES
Marcus Coloma as RICK
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
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“Material Girls” was one of those movies that came and went without much fanfare. It’s no big surprise, really, considering the plot seemed more at home on the Disney Channel than on the big screen.
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“Material Girls” was an interesting case when it was released. Under the banner of MGM, which was in transition at the time of its release, this movie was left in the cold. Not only was it not screened for critics, but I couldn’t find anyone in my press contact list that would even own up to the movie. I expect this sort of treatment for a movie like “Gigli,” but I thought someone would lay claim to a Hilary Duff feature. And after seeing the film, I’ll say that it’s not actually as bad as you might think.
Still, I can’t be the only person who thinks that this is a major step down in the world for director Martha Coolidge. After years of people harping on the fact that there are few female directors, Coolidge made a career for herself in the 1980s directing popular films.
Like her contemporaries Kathryn Bigelow and Betty Thomas, Coolidge didn’t just do “female movies.” Leave that to Barbra Streisand and Penny Marshall in her later career. Coolidge, Bigelow and Thomas have made it as mainstream directors in a man’s world. They didn’t do exclusively women’s issues, but rather made movies that would be popular among the general audience.
Coolidge hasn’t had a stellar career, but she is responsible for such pseudo classics as “Valley Girl” and “Real Genius.” While she’s stumbled in her career lately, giving us the underrated “Out to Sea” and the respected “Lost in Yonkers” and “Rambling Rose,” Coolidge has nothing to be ashamed of...
...until she hooked up with the Duff sisters to make “Material Girls.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against Hilary Duff. Unlike the haters out there, I have actually found her to be a funny, talented girl. And while her sister Haylie isn’t as charming on screen, she’s still a decent actor in her own right. However, “Material Girls” seems more of an ode to Paris and Nicky Hilton than a decent vehicle for these sisters.
The film tells the story of Tanzie and Ava Marchetta (Hilary and Haylie Duff), two heiresses of a cosmetics empire, who suddenly find themselves kicked to the curb when a scandal erupts at their company. Determined to prove that their dead father was not peddling damaging cosmetics, Tanzie and Ava must work without their wealthy resources to uncover a plot to sell the company.
To be honest, this movie isn’t that bad. I have to admit that while these girls aren’t going to be winning any Oscars in the coming years, they have a certain chemistry on screen. And the story isn’t really that bad, just lukewarm. Overall, the movie doesn’t have much of an appeal outside of its target market of pre-teen girls, but this is not shock to anyone.
The biggest problem with a riches-to-rags story like this is that it’s so hard to feel sympathy for characters that are this blessed to begin with. It’s no big surprise that rags-to-riches stories are much more interesting. Sure, the girls learn how the other half lives, but that nagging Paris and Nicky cloud hangs over them through the whole film.
Ultimately, I didn’t hate “Material Girls.” It’s totally not my movie, and I found it strangely bearable, so take that for all it’s worth. If a chubby, middle-aged, cynical critic can sit through “Material Girls” without squirming too much, it probably ain’t that bad for someone who is going to connect with the story.
The DVD comes with several featurettes that focus on the two actresses in the movie. There’s a bit too much of a self-congratulatory nature to these pieces, but that’s to be expected for a pink and fluffy film like this. Also included is a pared down music video by Hilary Duff and audio commentary by Coolidge for the feature.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. Full frame (1.33:1) and widescreen (2.40:1) – enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.