Jean Hamilton (Heather Locklear) is a single mother who perpetually disappointed in love. Her solution to every broken romance is to pack up daughters Holly and Zoe and move in search of a fresh start. She does this so often, teen Holly (Hilary Duff) writes a blog called Girl on the Move to cope. Getting insight therapy would probably be cheaper but if the self-absorbed Jean thought of that, there would be no movie, would there?
This time the Hamilton family moves from Wichita, Kansas and ends up in Brooklyn, New York where Jean gets a job in a bakery creating specialty cakes (it must pay well to afford the rent on that nice spacious non-slummy apartment). When Jean embarrasses her daughter by suggesting special meetings for singles at a PTA gathering, Holly decides enough is enough. Besides, she’s tired of moving all over the country and wants to settle down in one place. She likes her new school and has already made friends (including a would-be boyfriend). So Holly decides to invent “the perfect man” for her mother.
New pal Amy (Vanessa Lengies) introduces Holly to her uncle, the charming and debonair Ben (Chris Noth), a restaurant owner who knows what women want. By pretending to conduct research a school project about romance, Holly picks Ben’s brain for tips. She then uses the information to send orchids and sweet mushy emails to her mother. Showing a distinct lack of imagination, she even names the fictional cyber romance admirer “Ben”. And when Jean gets interested and wants a photo, Holly sends her a picture of guess who. It’s not too hard to see where this is going And where it will end up.
Meantime there’s a Mr. Wrong at the bakery who is interested in Jean, to Holly’s dismay. Holly arranges for her buddy Adam (Ben Feldman) to call Jean and pretend to be the fictional Ben. But the plan goes awry. Holly also has to keep on her toes to prevent her mother from discovering the subterfuge. She goes to extremes to keep the real Ben and her mother from an accidental meeting. In one funny scene, she’s forced to dash repeatedly down the fire escape to keep a guy from stealing the orchids from “Ben” then make it back to the apartment before her mother wonders what’s up.
Holly could also have a romance of her own brewing, if she gives it half a chance. But her mother’s forlorn love life and the family’s unstable lifestyle has clearly left its mark on Holly. She’s commitment-phobic. The move to Brooklyn came on the heels of Holly’s preparing to attend her Wichita school prom.
You have to accept a lot of doubtful premises, such as Jean being able to quickly find work wherever she goes and other improbable events. Despite looking a little ragged around the edges—the better to show Jean’s faltering self esteem—Heather Locklear still looks like someone who wouldn’t have a difficult time catching a guy, even a decent one. Hilary Duff plays the frantically scheming Holly just fine. But Chris Noth’s role is way too thin for any “Sex in the City”/”Law and Order: CI” fan.
“The Perfect Man” is basically an extended sitcom, frothy forgettable fun. Rated PG for some mild language.