Rising teen star Hilary Duff does her best in a thankless role as Holly Hamilton, a spunky 16-year-old who lives with her younger sister and single mother. As the film begins, the family is about to move again, a pattern that occurs whenever Holly's mom, Jean (a bland Heather Locklear), breaks up with yet another boyfriend. Relocated to New York City, where Jean takes a job as a baker, Holly decides to cheer up her mother by creating the 'perfect man', relying on advice from handsome bistro owner Ben (Chris Noth), who seems to know what women want. Of course, Holly's scheme gets out of hand as her mother begins to fall for Ben, who's oblivious to the fact that he's playing a part in Holly's manipulations.
While "The Perfect Man" touches on relevant, meaty subjects, such as the travails of single mothers, loneliness and vulnerability, it's quick to smooth out any rough edges, lest any reality intrude into the proceedings. In fact, the movie is so intent on arriving unscathed at a happily-ever-after ending for all concerned, complete with moral lessons out of an After-School Special, that one could be forgiven for wondering what its point is. In that context, Duff acquits herself quite well, even though Gina Wendkos' rote script is careful not to make her too interesting. But Chris Noth, whom many women would indeed extol as perfect, barely gets to showcase any of the wry charm that he used to such great effect as Mr. Big in "Sex and the City." Starring Hilary Duff, Heather Locklear and Chris Noth. Directed by Mark Rosman. Written by Gina Wendkos. Produced by Susan Duff, Marc E. Platt and Dawn Wolfrom. A Universal release. Drama. Rated PG for some mildly suggestive content. Running time: 101 min