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Universal Pictures release the latest Hilary Duff vehicle The Perfect Man to UK DVD on 6th February 2006. Also starring Heather Locklear and a post- Sex and the City Chris Noth, does this make the perfect DVD?

The Perfect Man

Feature


”Honey, if ex-boyfriends were dollars you’d be loaded by now.”

Hi and welcome to my little world on the big old web. Just to bring you up to date with what’s been going on lately, I’ve been sitting through the latest antics of Hilary Lizzy McGuire Duff in preparation for putting up a review for y’all to read. And what do you know, here it is...Right, that’s enough of that – I don’t think I can keep that style up for the entire feature blurb, so let’s get down to it shall we?

Holly Hamilton (Hilary Duff) is less of a teenager and more of a nomad. Along with her seven year old sister, Zoë (Aria Wallace), sixteen year old Holly gets to live all over America thanks to her mother. It’s not that Jean Hamilton (Heather Locklear) has a job that demands travelling; it’s just that she doesn’t like to hang around in one place when a relationship goes belly up. The only vent for Holly’s worries is her own little corner of the internet—the blog where she keeps everyone in the world up to date with her travels (now do you see what that bit at the start was all about? Oh well, please yourself).

So, another boyfriend down for Jean and this time it’s off to Brooklyn, New York where, thankfully, there is another job in a bakery waiting. The thing is, Holly is getting a little tired of leaving friends behind that she has hardly had a chance to know well, and she never seems to get to go to the proverbial dance because they are never in one place long enough. However, her mother’s happiness is paramount and a plot is hatched to cheer her up and hopefully get her to settle down for a bit longer his time.

The Perfect Man
Having made an instant friend in Amy (Vanessa Lengies) on her first day at school—and a slightly less instant friend in Adam (Ben Feldman)—Holly enlists their help but doesn’t figure on meeting the perfect man for her mother and risking messing things up for everyone. That man would be Amy’s Uncle, Ben (Chris Noth), owner of a restaurant (probably his only connection with rice), and an all round charming and romantic chap. Roses, letters, emails and instant messages to Jean follow, although without any inkling from Ben himself, and all the while Holly is missing out on someone right underneath her nose.

The acting is all fairly solid with Hilary and Vanessa playing the chirpy teenagers well, the bonus being that they are actually playing roles somewhere near their ages and aren’t the typical twenty-somethings you usually get in these parts trying to recapture their youth. Slightly geeky would be the best way to describe Adam’s character, and Ben Feldman looks like he’s into the comics he aspires to draw for, so he’s doesn’t do a bad job either.

The Perfect Man
All of which leaves us with Heather Locklear and Chris Noth. Ms. Locklear gets to show off a little emotional range, from heartbreak to exasperation to hope, and does lend a little weight to someone who, as Adam puts it, is not really a wonderful role model—either for Holly or any kids that may be watching. Chris Noth mainly stays in exasperation mode though, and maybe a little confused at times, but then strange questions from teenagers are bound to throw you off your game a bit so the performance isn’t out of place.

I’m not sure what genre to actually put this film in, as it doesn’t really excel in any of the comedy, drama or romance, although the latter does get a bit more of a look in than the others. There is a bit of comic relief in the two adults’ workplaces, however. Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) gets hot and bothered over some strapping workmen in the restaurant, and Delores (Kym Whitley) and Gloria (Caroline Rhea) entertain as they try to push Jean towards Lenny (Mike O’Malley), the Styx fan with an awful taste in chat up lines. Hilarity does not ensue, but the odd smile is raised.

It isn’t that the film is bad, just pretty average fare with all the usual clichés associated with going from unhappy relationship-wise to almost in love. And yes, I do mean almost, as at least the film doesn’t do the usual trick of ending with someone going up the aisle (an aisle is involved, and a wedding, but it doesn’t involve our heroines—much). We are left at the end with the beginnings of something, which seems a good point to end this bit and get on with the rest.

The Perfect Man

Video


There isn’t much to say about this anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. It’s a serviceable job, but there seems to be an overall lack of sharpness throughout—which is surprising given an average bit-rate of around 7.5Mb/s. I can only surmise that this has more to do with the way that the film was shot, but skin texture isn’t done any favours either, although the colour palette is quite accurate. Background detail is okay when you get the chance to see it, but most of the focus is on the subjects in the foreground with everything behind left blurred.

Edge enhancement is also evident, and minor haloing can be noticed on the cast at times—as well as the frequent computer screen text. Subtitles are readable, if a little fuzzy around the edges, and the layer change sits at 1h08m42s in chapter twelve.

The Perfect Man

Audio


The first thing you notice about the English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is that it appears here at a fairly low level. Once you pump the volume up a little, however, the reduced bit-rate (384kb/s) is exposed with a lack of clarity in the high end, manifesting itself in a lot of harsh ‘S’ sounds (among other things). Things do go loud for a couple of minutes when the Styx tribute band is on stage, but the subwoofer is rarely used—if ever—and a front-heavy mix also leaves the surrounds with little to do. The mix being levelled for the concert scenes would account for the low volume level of the majority of this dialogue driven film, though.

Christophe Beck’s soundtrack, and the numerous other songs that appear (which, surprisingly, do not include young Ms. Duff), are probably the best represented of the elements but still leave a little to be desired. Limited sampling of the Hungarian 5.1 track reveals the same limitations as the English one.

Extras


The list of extras would, at first glance, appear to be fairly decent. All are presented with English Dolby Digital Stereo tracks and non-anamorphic 1.85:1 and 4:3 video (except the commentary, obviously), with optional subtitles in English, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish.

The Perfect Man
First up, we get twelve deleted scenes, totalling around nineteen minutes and complete with the time-codes sitting happily in the border. The following scenes can’t be selected individually, but there are chapter stops:

  • On the Road...Again (5m14s) is the original opening to the film
  • First Piece of Advice (1m09s) is an extended version of the first meeting between Amy and Holly
  • A Rapper’s Defence (3m16s) shows a bit more of Holly in the classroom, engaging in her first class debate
  • Play Ball (1m06s) has Adam playing the fool on the basketball court
  • Daughter Knows Best (54s)
  • I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (47s) shows Lenny and Jean arriving at the concert
  • Lenny Gets the Girl (41s) Lenny and Jean dancing at the concert, complete with around 30s of silence as they haven’t bothered dubbing the band in!
  • Tough Love (1m20s) – additional bakery shenanigans
  • The Lady from Dubuque (1m06s) – Gloria and Delores point out the downside of corresponding with someone in China
  • Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1m09s) puts Lenny through more torture as Jean dumps him
  • Stop Drawing and Kiss Me (1m37s) gives us the original ending
  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot (27s) is basically a Lenny epilogue

The Perfect Man
There isn’t anything earth-shattering here, although the original opening and ending may be of interest to some. Complementing the above are four and a half minutes of outtakes, which consist of your usual blooper takes from during filming (none of which are particularly hilarious), and we also get the following featurettes:

  • ‘Mom & Me’ (4m37s) gives us Ms. Duff and Ms. Locklear discussing their on- and off-screen relationship
  • ‘Getting the Perfect Look’ (7m19s) looks at the effort that went into make-up and costumes, along with Carson Kressley hamming it up in the wardrobe truck
  • ‘The Clever Clapper’ (1m18s) showcases camera assistant Cylvan’s clapperboard decorating talent
  • ‘Ready, Set, Soak, Shoot!’ (4m23s) is a closer look at the making of the restaurant sprinkler scene
  • ‘The Sweet Arts – Creating the Cakes’ (3m09s) glances at cake decorator Bonnie Gordon’s creativity

There is quite a lot of interview footage of the cast and crew here, but it is also padded by a fair few clips from the film.

Moving on, Ms. Duff gets to do a ‘Holly’ in ‘On the Set with Hilary—Blogs and Buddies’ (5m48s), complete with narrated on-screen typing and a camera following her about. With the movie shoot being done over months rather than minutes, this is obviously a very small view of the on set goings-on.

The visual feasts finish up with three interview segments with the main stars. ‘Hangin’ with Hilary’ (4m00s), ‘Hangin’ with Heather’ (3m25s) and ‘Chattin’ with Chris’ (4m01s) feature a little more interview footage of the main stars than the other fare on here, but are all still a little short. And do you see what they’ve done with the titles and the H’s and C’s and that? Makes it all sound really cool...or not.

The Perfect Man
Finally, we get a commentary with director Mark Rosman and executive producer Adam Siegel. There is a lot of information on the making of the film in here—a bit of CGI here, a fake NY taxi there, etc.—and even a few pointers towards continuity bloopers, and overall it isn’t a bad track. With that said, there are a lot of quiet moments.

Something to note is the reduced number of subtitle streams for the extras. Not so surprising given that the majority of discs don’t even bother to subtitle the extras in English, but releasing a disc with a Hungarian soundtrack for the movie and then omitting that language from the extras subtitles (as well as the Icelandic and Hebrew subs) seems a strange move.

Like I said, on paper there is quite a lot to look at, but none of it is really substantial and you have to wonder whether the target audience for the film would be bothered with most of it. A case in point would be the commentary—you would think that something with Hilary, Vanessa, Heather, Aria and Chris would appeal more to those who will buy this than two stuffy old men discussing how they put a shot together. Ho hum.

The Perfect Man

Overall


Not so much ‘perfect’ as it is ‘perfectly average’ in terms of pretty much everything here. The disc, much like the movie, fails to excel. There is not anything that I can say is outright bad, but it’s still a way off me giving it any of our coveted DVDActive awards.

Having to select the bonus subtitles on selection of any and every extra is a pain, and that darned ‘Piracy is a Crime’ advert is really starting to get on my nerves (and can do so here in a multitude of languages) but, little niggles with the disc aside, this DVD won’t really appeal to anyone over the age of eighteen.


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