Material Girls (Blu-ray)
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Review Date: April 4, 2011
I’m not sure which narrative device has generated more movies: rags-to-riches stories or riches-to-rags stories. No matter; Martha Coolidge’s Material Girls has it both ways: riches-to-rags-to-riches making everyone happy; well, everyone, that is, except the audience who has seen this clichéd bundle of plot contrivances more times than one may care to remember. The film isn’t disagreeable so much as it’s simply completely unnecessary. There is nothing here that hasn’t been done before.
After the death of their cosmetics king father, his spoiled celebrity daughters Ava (Haylie Duff) and Tanzie (Hilary Duff) Marchetta enjoy the empire’s riches and fame without knowing anything at all about the company that’s generating the products that they endorse. Their shares in the company are being tended by the company’s CEO and their father’s best friend Tommy Kazenbach (Brent Spiner), but the girls are soon to come of age and in control of their own proxies. At a celebratory banquet for their father, news breaks that the company’s face cream has had toxic results on the skin of hundreds of users, results which Marchetta had allegedly buried before his death. With the stock prices for the company plunging, rival cosmetics tycoon Fabiella (Anjelica Huston) puts in a lowball bid for Marchetta which Kazenbach is eager to accept, but Ava and Tanzie smell a rat and decide to begin their own investigation into the spurious claims of toxicity against the company’s face cream.
With not the slightest doubt who’s behind the staining of the company’s honor (the names of John Quaintance, Jessica O'Toole, and Amy Rardin are on the flimsy script), the viewer must seek elsewhere in this predictable comedy for whatever small pleasures he can ferret out. There certainly isn’t anything amusing in the oh-so-familiar fish-out-of-water slapstick as the helpless girls burn down their own house, throw dishes away rather than trying to wash them, try to figure out how an iron works, or attempt to take public transportation as if they’re from another planet. Handily enough, as investigators, they have more skills than one might expect (spurred on by watching Eric Brockovich on Tivo) especially aided by two young men who are obviously their soon-to-be romantic interests: chemist Rick (Marcus Coloma) and legal aide lawyer Henry (Lukas Haas). No, the film’s few positives all come from the more adult members of the cast who bring real characterization and quite a bit of screen charisma to their parts.
Chief among the assets is Anjelica Huston, classy and somewhat enigmatic as the cosmetics queen out to own the world. Brent Spiner puts heavy doses of New Jerseyese into his amusing malapropisms as he greasily weasels his way around the board room. Maria Conchita Alonso as the sweet-natured housekeeper who’s the closest thing the girls have to a real mother is warm and appealing in a role which would have greatly benefited the film with its expansion. Obba Babatunde with an eternal Bluetooth plastered to his ear earns some good laughs playing Kazenbach’s assistant whom one can never be quite sure whether he’s addressing the person on the phone on the person in front of him. But director Martha Coolidge keeps things snapping along handily (using a lot of split screens and montages helps though she does pace scenes quite well) despite being stuck with two rather charmless leading ladies, real-life sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff who can do little more than make faces at the camera never convincing us for one second that Tanzie has the I.Q. needed to become the chemist she has always dreamed of becoming and that Ava could actually become a businesswoman in charge of a multimillion dollar company with no training or experience for such a job.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. As is too often the case, important films don’t end up looking as good in high definition as mere trifles. This film has stunning sharpness, outstandingly applied contrast that makes every scene pop, and color saturation that is luscious and tremendously appealing. Flesh tones are very natural, and there are no video artifacts at all. It’s one of the best transfers seen on Blu-ray in quite some time. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is nothing special. As is typical for comedies, the soundstage is focused very much on the front three channels with very little at all applied to the rears apart from a few music flourishes furnished by Jennie Muskett’s score. The subwoofer isn’t of much use except in a brief club scene early in the movie. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Director Martha Coolidge contributes the audio commentary for the movie. Providing too much description of what we’re seeing and unnecessary psychological analyses of these paper-thin characters’ motivations, the director doesn’t offer nearly enough backstage stories about the actual production process.
Unless otherwise noted, the featurettes are all in 480i.
“Getting to Know Hilary and Haylie as the Marchetta Sisters” is exactly as it is described in the title, a 9 ¾-minute interview with the two Duff sisters describing the aspects of themselves that they imbued into their characters.
“Cast of Characters: The Making of Material Girls” features interviews with the director, the producer, two of the screenwriters, and co-stars Hilary and Haylie Duff, Anjelica Huston, Brent Spiner, Lukas Haas, Maria Conchita Alonso, Marcus Coloma, and Obba Babatunde all talking about their joy in being a part of this project. It runs for 10 minutes.
“Material Girls Music Montage” is a 2 ¼-minute collection of film clips and behind-the-scenes shots scored to the song “Material Girl.”
A music video to the song “Play with Fire” features Hilary Duff and runs for 3 ¼ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs for 2 ¼ minutes.
3/5 (not an average)
The Duff sisters are the least appealing of the actors in Martha Coolidge’s Material Girls, but the film itself is an innocuously familiar comedy which looks absolutely great in high definition. Fans of the Duffs will enjoy the bonus features which heavily feature them.