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Goody-two-shoe fluff

Goody-two-shoe fluff

'The Perfect Man' proves only slightly better than 'A Cinderella Story'

Finding the perfect man for Heather Locklear has always been a problem. Her husband and the boys from "Wayne's World" aside, what man in his right mind would give her a second glance?

Come on, show of hands. Let's see, every American male between 12 and 112 who's not on a respirator? OK, we stand corrected.

Locklear's stunning looks and winsome personality remain in full bloom in "The Perfect Man," though the filmmakers try to dull her down a bit by making her a single mom working in a bakery who has some desperate emotional bent for hooking up with losers.

Even so, the woman you see on screen should have men lined up around the block. That's the first fatal flaw to "The Perfect Man," starring Hilary Duff as Locklear's teenage daughter, who tries to salve her mom's romantic pangs by creating an ideal -- but fictional -- beau.

The second fatal flaw: The movie is a toxic buzz of sweetness that Duff's teen gal fans might lap up, while all others suffer through a prolonged sugar fit.

Director Mark Rosman delivers a marginally better movie than last year's "A Cinderella Story," the lousy teen fairy tale in which he also directed Duff. Her young fans made that movie a modest success, and "The Perfect Man" presents more of the same goody-goody Duff shenanigans for them to savor.

Duff's Holly Hamilton, her typical angelically mischievous high schooler, is tired of the endless uprooting each time her mom, Jean (Locklear), moves the family after bad breakups with men.

When the latest jerk dumps her, Jean relocates with Holly and her younger daughter, Zoe (Aria Wallace), to New York City, where they find an oddly spacious and charming apartment on a lowly baker's salary. But then, no one expects a Hilary Duff flick to take on the financial dilemmas of single parenthood.

In New York, Holly begins a little romantic dance with hunky classmate Adam (Ben Feldman) and makes instant friends with another student, Amy (Vanessa Lengies), who becomes Ethel to Duff's Lucy as Holly schemes to make her mom stay put for once.

Holly's worried because Jean has begun another dicey relationship with co-worker Lenny (Mike O'Malley), a devotee of the rock band Styx who's a nice guy but, in Holly's view, the latest in a string of men bound to break her mother's heart.

To push Lenny aside and keep Jean's lovesick blues at bay, Holly creates the perfect suitor, based on Amy's uncle, classy restaurateur Ben (Chris Noth). Fictional Ben sweeps Jean off her feet with flowers, e-mails and online chatroom heart-to-hearts.

The proverbial rocket-science degree is not necessary to figure out who the real perfect man for Jean might be.

Screenwriter Gina Wendkos ("The Princess Diaries") piles on the Duff fluff, the movie essentially a series of gags and scenarios that range from implausible to outlandish.

The saccharine is thickly and sickly applied, reaching a gag-reflex zenith with a nauseating mother-daughter dance montage in the Hamilton's living room.

Teen crowds will find Duff and her new playpals as cute as ever, but the grown-ups are the strong suit in "The Perfect Man." Locklear and Noth are fetching and funny separately, and while they share only a few moments on screen, they show a hint of chemistry that makes you wish for more.

Now that the teens have their sugar fix, someone should do the adults a favor and come up with a smart romantic comedy starring Locklear and Noth. Let's say a love story between a couple of divorcees. Neither with kids.

onscreen

"The Perfect Man"

Grade: C

Starring: Heather Locklear, Hilary Duff, Aria Wallace, Ben Feldman, Vanessa Lengies, Mike O'Malley, Chris Noth

Director: Mark Rosman

Rated: PG for some mildly suggestive content

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