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The Hottie and the Nottie
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this comedy -- which stars tabloid staple Paris Hilton -- models some pretty terrible behavior for teen girls. It takes delight in disparaging women who don't abide by a rigid definition of beauty (i.e. blond, scantily clad and unchallenging). And despite the main character's ultimate epiphany about what's truly attractive, women are, for the most part, objectified. Though there's no outright nudity, there are many scenes that pore over women's bodies, as well as some making out and discussion of losing virginity. Much is made of what a man will do to get sex, and there's plenty of drinking.
What's the story?
After being brutally dumped by yet another girl, Nate Cooper (Joel Moore) vows to track down his childhood crush. When he finds Cristabel Abbot (Paris Hilton), it's clear not much has changed: She's still the girl of everyone's dreams -- and, best of all, she's single. But there's a catch: Cristabel is still best friends with June Phigg (Christine Lakin), a sad-sack child who, as an adult, sports too much body hair, a malevolent-looking mole on her cheek, gnarly toenails, a dubious skin disorder, and black-streaked teeth. The only way Cristabel will date Nate is if June finds a boyfriend, too. Nate embraces his task -- after all, the "prize" is Cristabel. But as he gets reacquainted with June and witnesses her physical transformation (thanks to a makeover he pays for) and the onset of attentions from a too-perfect suitor, he starts to wonder which one truly is the hottie. And, for that matter, what truly makes someone beautiful.
Is it any good?
THE HOTTIE AND THE NOTTIE has a fairly interesting premise; sadly, it doesn't hold up. Less surprising is the fact that Hilton's casting doesn't turn out to be the film's most egregious offense. She's not as bad as you might expect -- when she's not overacting (which happens often), she's actually somewhat appealing ... though not appealing enough to be convincing as the "hottest" woman ever. Plus, her feelings stay on one plane; there are no shadings.
What is odious about the movie is how it gleefully "uglifies" the "nottie." Misogyny is front and center, with characters making proclamations like "the hotness of one girl is directly proportional to the ugliness of her best friend." The camera sadistically lingers on June's appearance, and the men -- who are far from great catches themselves -- take delight in being repulsed by it. Plus, the voiceover is annoying and the setups tired (would two ostensibly smart women really fall for all the lines Nate is throwing them?). Still, when Nate and June finally get together, the film suddenly displays a modicum of soul. Too bad it took so long to show up. The verdict? It's a nottie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's ideas about beauty. Is beauty just what our society decides? How are other societies' notions of beauty similar and different? When the "nottie" becomes a "hottie," why does Nate fall for her? Is it just because she's now prettier, or does he have any other motivations? Why is Hollywood so enamored of ugly-duckling stories? And why did the movie not make much of a deal about how Nate himself looks? Are expected appearance standards different for men and women? Is that fair?