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Paparazzi:
And Our Obsession with Celebrity
by Peter Howe
(In Paperback from Amazon)
. "The Hottie & the Nottie"

With a title that gives you the premise and shallowness of the story, and as an acting vehicle for the media loveboat Paris Hilton, my willingness to actually go see this film included the vow to endure it. And, as it lived up to expectations, I'm not even going to be very critical of it. This fantasy comedy is a probable crowd pleaser if you happen to be one of Ms. Hilton's adorers, papparazzi, press criticisers, or if you feed off her celebrity in some other way (as the tabloid press does to the point of exhaustion). One thing is certain about this movie: it gives the exploiters a fresh target for their TV time and inkprint so that they may sell more cars and cosmetics!

Little Cristabelle Abbott (Karley Scott Collins as the young Ms. Hilton) was the childhood sweetheart of nerdly Nate Cooper (Joel Moore) when they were in grade school and, when she moved to Los Angeles, she became the standard by which he judged every girl he met (and got nowhere with). One fine day, grown up (Joel David Moore, "House M.D." TV) and frustrated, he gives in to his obsession and drives across the country to see and hook up with the object of his dreams again, divining that she's his true soul mate.

He tracks her down to a beach where he learns she can be depended on to jog every morning at the same time and he finds himself in the company of adoring males with the same delusion. When she finally appears on the horizon, you'd think the Rapture had begun, to a celestial choir. As she passes her leering fan base, the boys go into paroxysms of heavenly delight, expressing their passions and devotion.

Hey, but Nate knows her. So he re-introduces himself; she remembers him, and sits down with him long enough to explain that she can't go out with anyone until her best girlfriend June Phigg, the school ugly now a mature ugly (Christine Lakin, "The Game Plan"), gets her first boyfriend. To make her the "Nottie" of the piece, the makeup technicians took a hottie and turned her into "Fang" with discolored teeth never touched by a dentist's drill, werewolfian hair on her body, leathery, infested skin and a wardrobe to promote the over-obvious synthetic degradation.

Nate's pursuit is now guided by his efforts to fix Phigg up, a task the demands of the story make as probable as a Bush apology. There are lots of unkind reactions to June's appearance, not too subtly assisted by a horse whiny sound to make sure we don't think she's an essentially good looking girl, but everything else done here is obvious, so why go for subtlety? It isn't too long (though it feels like an eternity), however, before a candidate in the form of ultra-handsome Johann (Johann Urb, "1408") shows up. Among his long list of accomplishments is a diploma saying he's a dentist and, possibly, a plastic surgeon. Whatever, he takes June in for a makeover that is so successful, the gimlet eye of jealousy rears its ugly head.

That doesn't, however, apply to Ms. Hilton. Her lineup of suitors protects this lady from that mundane emotion. Her feeling for Nate hovers between "okay, I might as well" to the somewhat less intense "Oh, don't worry about me, just go off with another woman and be happy."

Which brings me to why I had enough interest in seeing this in the first place: to ponder the earth-shaking question of how good the acting wing of Hilton's edifice of talents are. Let's just say she can handle this appeal to young female screamers who regard her a role model and anyone else who gives her a break. She merely wants to preserve her carefully designed celebrity space in the entertainment firmament.

Which is not to say she can't act -- just that this lead role is not the place to see much of it. She's better in an ensemble, such as "House of Wax," in which she held her own with capability at least equal to her co-players. Her supporting team here lives up to the pubescent content of what director Tom Putnam ("Red White Black & Blue") and writer Heidi Ferrer ("Dawson's Creek" TV) dreamt up to fill the void in the fantasy romantic comedy genre. That's good because it was about to drift off into empty space like a helium balloon.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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Paris Hilton and Christine Lakin
The title characters.

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