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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Matt the Movies

In Hanover, there are only two places to rent movies -- the free, yet fine-friendly Jones Media Center, and Videostop, where your friend's girlfriend's friend from high school probably didn't return that copy of "Drowning Mona" -- so options are few. Especially if you are looking to inaugurate the first annual Hilary Duff Film Festival of 2005, which I attempted to do last week.

I first tried Jones. For some reason, those smug tastemakers in the library can find room in their collection for "Rashomon" or "La Dolce Vita," yet they couldn't fit in the classics "Raise Your Voice" or "A Cinderella Story."

That's right -- the Hilary Duff oeuvre is no where to be found in the hallowed stacks of Baker-Berry. And somewhere, a freshman girl looking for a little Duff- inspiration to achieve her goals or overcome hardship is met with the cold hard facts -- you are going to have to walk to Videostop.

So on to Videostop, where I just tried to convince the cashier that I was not looking for masturbatory material with my five-HD-film rental. No questions asked, and no FBI investigation, so I should be okay. It was time to start the festival -- so let us go back to the beginning.

Duff, a sweet-natured 19-year-old Texan, got her big break with "Lizzie McGuire," the Disney Channel TV show that first etched out HD's safely alternative persona -- one of a girl that is not the coolest in her grade, and may have fat arms, but who advertises her individuality anyway by means of oversized bangles, funny-looking hats, and an overwhelmed manner of speaking. In other words, a budding Diane Keaton.

While on the show, Hil made the 2002 made-for-Disney-Channel direct-to-DVD release, "Cadet Kelly," which is kind of like "You Got Served," but with rifles instead of breakdancers, commandants as judges instead of overweight female rappers, and military school as a setting instead of the mean streets of L.A.

The movie, along with "Lizzie," established a pattern of roles for HD: a downtrodden-yet-unique girl with blond bangs trying to fit a square into a circle, all while trying to nab the studly hunk, played by an actor at least five years older than she. And, oh yes, lessons will be learned.

In "Cadet," HD plays a funky, artistic high schooler sent to military school, where she learns lessons of teamwork and friendship, all while teaching her peers how to incorporate ribbon dancing into military training.

Hil also manages to outwit her drill captain for the affections of the hottest cadet captain in school, played by an actor (Iceman from "X2") eight years older than Hil. So the moral of the story is teamwork = good, disobeying direct orders = bad, and statutory rape = probably okay.

As for me, I missed much of the mid-sections of "Cadet Kelly" contemplating suicide (yes, the movie is that bad), and then coming out of that deep depression with the help of "Hung Up" on high-volume repeat.

Next up was "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," which was surprisingly even sh*ttier than "Cadet." All the elements are in place for a terrible two hours: Hilary Duff plays not one, but two roles, and for one of those she sports a C-grade Italian accent; they try to pass off an actor named Yani Gellman as an Italian superstar hunk; and Alex Borstein has a prominent role.

I had to break for the day after the first two films. Day Two started with "Cheaper By the Dozen," the 2003 argument for birth control that I don't even count as a HD film because she has about five lines.

But, by 2003, Hil was definitely starting to realize that if she wanted to make it big in Hollywood, she had to discover the wonderful world of eating disorders; her arms were getting less flabby and she was starting to look less healthy. (This trend of passing on the Whoopee-Pies and booting up brunch would come to full fruition this year thanks to some coaching from the uber-skinny co-star Heather Locklear.)

The last two films of the festival, as opposed to the first three, had me giddy with delight. The first, "A Cinderella Story," has Hil totally making out with dreamboat Chad Michael Murray after the two embark on a clandestine IM relationship. Valley Girl Hil is from the wrong side of the tracks, and he's the Student Body President -- will their relationship work? "Cinderella" continues Hil's older-man quest: CMM is six years older than Hil and yet they get to tongue kiss.

The last -- and so far best -- HD movie is "Raise Your Voice," where Hilary truly gets to emote -- full on crying in despair/trapped in a coma in the hospital-type acting with a capital A that just screams Teen Choice Award nomination. She had me in tears after only 20 minutes.

In "Voice," in the aftermath of a tragic post-"punk"-rock concert car accident that sent HD to the ICU, her parents decide to send her to L.A. with her artistically-inclined aunt (Rebecca DeMornay) but secretly she enrolls in a rising-young-talent music school, where she develops her talent of double-tracked lip synching. (Note to parents: it is never a good idea to send your child to L.A. with Rebecca DeMornay under any circumstances.)

In L.A., Hil meets a whole host of new friends that like to spontaneously "jam" in courtyards and public plazas a la Pringles commercials.

One friend in particular, the aspiring D.J. Kiwi -- played by an actor with the intensity of Sean Penn, the good looks of Brad Pitt, and the coolness of a young Freddie Prinze Jr. -- steals the show. His name: Johnny Lewis a.k.a. Chili from "The O.C." His raw talent alone is worth the price of the rental.

And so the festival ended. I'm just sad that I couldn't get to Hil's newest movies -- "A Perfect Man" and "Cheaper By the Dozen 2" -- and that Videostop had already rented out "Agent Cody Banks." And I certainly can't wait for Hil's latest offering: a tag-team effort with her ugly-duckling older sister Haylie, "Material Girls."

Hil's acting and dialogue delivery do leave something to be desired.

Or maybe she needs to involve herself with better talent (or at least better than Rebecca DeMornay), like her arch-enemy Lindsay Lohan has done ("Mean Girls" and her upcoming Robert Atlman project. She does get a notch down for working with Emilio Estevez though). Just take a look at these choice quotes from HD's body of work. It's all a little, well, Cheez-Whiz.

"I would really like to retain my individuality." ("Cadet Kelly," on how Hil will approach her transfer to military school.) "Hey now, hey now, this is what dreams are made of. I've got somewhere I belong, I've got somebody to love." ("Lizzie McGuire," on her feelings about dueting with her Italian doppelganger.) "I don't care what people think about me ... because I believe in myself. And I know that things are gonna be okay." ("A Cinderella Story," on why she doesn't care that the whole school knows about her secret IM relationship with Chad Michael Murray.) "I f*cking live on porn ..." (Oh wait, that was not from a HD film; that was from the Colin Farrell sex tape. Oopsies.)

But I must say, for as much as HD made me want to kill myself over the past week, and as much as I longed for just one luscious taste of La Lohan, Duff does have a leg up on her singer/actress peers, especially Lohan.

There is a certain level of popularity that only the Kelly Clarksons, Madonnas and Britneys of the world posses and the run-of-the-mill teenybopper like Ashlee Simpson or Mandy Moore can only dream of -- the frat-guys-listen-to-my-songs-ironically-in-basements type society-wide ubiquity.

Lohan may be able to go clubbing with Rob Stewart's daughter, but her "Rumors" is confined to sorority basements or off-campus female houses, while Duff's "Come Clean," thanks to "Laguna Beach," has reached that kind of popularity that can get even the hardest guy singing along -- ironically, of course.

Add to that slap across Lindsay's freckle-y face the fact that Hil stole Aaron Carter from Linds -- reasons enough to want to "make [your]self sick."

Unfortunately, HD has to get out of this rut of her somewhat enjoyable, patented HDuff roles, that make her seem like a low-grade DeGrassi bit player. Ten years from now, that kind of acting will land her in permanent USA Network/Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-TV movie hell where only Steven Segal and Rebecca DeMornay dare tread. And, as already said, it is never a good sign to be in the same sentence as Rebecca DeMornay.