Hottie and the Nottie, The (United States, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Every February it seems there's something like The Hottie & the Nottie - a cinematic excursion so horrific that it's an insult to bad movies to call it a bad movie. One question that might cross the curious movie-goer's mind is who in his/her right mind would hire Paris Hilton, professional celebrity and amateur porn star, to headline a mainstream romantic comedy. Some insight to the answer can be found by perusing the credits, which list Ms. Hilton as an Executive Producer. Since Executive Producers are often responsible for providing the money, this explains a lot.

The first thing one notices upon watching this film is how shoddy the production looks. Compared to this, Cloverfield was slickly filmed. The director's shot selection is dull and static. The sound mix is awful. And the movie looks like it was filmed on someone's home video camera. Although the credits claim that Tom Putnam directed The Hottie & the Nottie and Heidi Ferrer wrote it, it wouldn't surprise me - based on the quality of the evidence - if Paris didn't have a hand in both of those areas as well. It's hard to imagine that professionals with a clue about what they are doing could arrive at such an abortion of a motion picture.

The plot is standard stuff but, as I have remarked before, that's okay for a romantic comedy if the intangibles are in place. Unfortunately, the people in this movie wouldn't know chemistry if someone gave them a Bunsen burner and a few test tubes. Plus there's an assumption that we're supposed to like and sympathize with the protagonists. Of the three individuals who fit into that category, we feel sorry for only one of them, and that's because she's forced to endure so much screen time with the other two. Hate is not too strong a word for my feelings about Nate Cooper (Joel David Moore) and Christabelle Abbott (Paris Hilton). It's a bad sign when the audience can't stand the whining loser of a male romantic lead.

Nate, as we learn after the obligatory grade-school flashbacks, is as big a jerk as they come. Now, well into his twenties and stuck somewhere in Maine, he has discovered the meaning of life: He will return to California to track down his first grade sweetheart, Christabelle, who has grown up to become "the hottest woman in Los Angeles." Would Paris Hilton play any other role? But there's a problem - in order to get a date with Christabelle, Nate has to find a boyfriend for her best friend, the butt-ugly June Phigg (Christine Lakin). Anyone who hasn't figured out within five minutes of the start of the movie where this is going deserves to be stuck watching this. For Nate, it helps that June gets progressively less ugly with every passing frame until she's drop dead gorgeous by the end of the film.

It goes without saying that this is a vanity project for Hilton. She is frequently filmed in soft focus and sometimes in slow motion. The scenes when she is scantily clad demand big reveals. And she gets to utter deep philosophical revelations worthy of Jack Handy. An example of her words to live by: "Life without orgasms is like a world without flowers." For the next few days, I'll be mulling over the facets of wisdom offered by that gem. Sadly, Hilton's acting is a littleā€¦ off. Or, to put it another way, in a contest between her and a solid plank of oak, she would be more convincingly wooden. Where's all the passion and energy she displayed in One Night in Paris? Most shocking of all, perhaps, is the fact that she's not the worst actor in the primary cast. In fact, she's not even the second or third worst.

Unwatchable would be a good word to describe Joel David Moore, who resembles a Tom Green wannabe. This resulted in my having several flashbacks to Freddy Got Fingered, which is not a good thing. As annoying as Moore is, he's better than an actor named "The Greg Wilson" (not a hint of self-importance there) and the even-more-flat-than-Paris Johann Urb. They play The Best Male Friend Who Always Gives Horrible Advice and The Perfect Looking Romantic Complication, respectively. The only one who gives a decent performance is Christine Lakin, but it's hard to judge how good she is because anything that's not manure still stinks in a dungheap.

The Hottie & the Nottie contains several comedic sequences that are about as funny as the anal rape scene in The War Zone. It's as if the filmmakers scoured the worst of recent comedies and stole the most lackluster scenes. A pair of women sitting close to me laughed frequently during the movie, but it was immediately clear they were laughing at it not with it. Paris' philosophical ruminations got the loudest chuckles.

Eventually, the movie stumbles to its embarrassing and predictable conclusion with a stab at a Jerry Maguire-like line that we'll remember for about two seconds after the end credits have rolled. The problem is, as expected as the last scene is, the movie doesn't earn it. It has a confused trajectory, never bothers to develop anything between the two true lovers until it's too late, then has to rush everything through. It's a little amazing that a movie can mess up something so basic and automatic, but this one manages to do it.

For all its problems, though, The Hottie & the Nottie provides a valuable service. It reminds us that no matter how bad a one-star movie might be, it could always be worse. This is worse.

Hottie and the Nottie, The (United States, 2008)

Director: Tom Putnam
Cast: Paris Hilton, Joel David Moore, Christine Lakin, Adam Kulbersh, The Greg Wilson, Johann Urb
Screenplay: Heidi Ferrer
Cinematography: Alex Vendler
Music: David E. Russo
U.S. Distributor: Regent Releasing
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2008-02-08
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1