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‘Material Girls’: a shrill comedy to skip

Hilary and Haylie Duff aren't remotely likeable in this feeble film
/ Source: The Associated Press

At least the clothes are fun. That’s the best thing we can say about “Material Girls.” Then again, with a title like that, they’d better be.

This shrill comedy, which shockingly wasn’t screened for critics before opening day, stars real-life sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff as heiresses Tanzie and Ava Marchetta, who take over the family’s cosmetics empire after their father dies (a development that’s played for weird, uncomfortable laughs).

Paris and Nicky Hilton exhibit more character nuance. And they’re vaguely more entertaining to watch.

Both Marchetta sisters consistently look fantastic and fashionable in their layered necklaces, Louis Vuitton bags and $200 jeans — even after they find out they’re broke and a scandal puts them in danger of losing the company to rival Fabiella (Anjelica Huston, slumming elegantly).

Ava staggers around making whiny remarks like, “I feel bloated” and “I am a federal emergency,” even though she looks completely glamorous at all times. (It took three screenwriters to come up with this stuff.) Tanzie insists she needs to buy new shoes because her Jimmy Choos are killing her, and wonders why she can’t use unemployment money to go shopping.

No one in this movie is likable. No one merits our affection or our sympathy. When the girls burn down the family house while giving each other spa treatments, all they think to grab is the TiVo, some fuzzy pink boots and a couple of gowns before speeding away in a convertible Mercedes. When Ava’s boyfriend dumps her through his agent, it isn’t funny or sad — it’s just one more moment that feels forced and rings painfully false.

(Maria Conchita Alonso does the best she can to provide substance as the maid who’s helped raise Tanzie and Ava all their lives, realizes they’re pathetic but loves them anyway.)

Weirdly, “Material Girls” is the work of Martha Coolidge, directing in an uncharacteristically tone-deaf manner. This is the woman who brought us the ’80s classics “Valley Girl” and “Real Genius” and, more recently, “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” and episodes of “Sex and the City.”

Here, even the jaunty music accompanying all the girls’ pratfalls and misadventures can’t convince us that we’re supposed to be amused.