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LAist Watches....Material Girls

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If you can't stomach the thought of sitting through "Snakes on a Plane" this weekend, you might want to consider a movie featuring rich girls on a bus.

"Material Girls," starring Hilary and Haylie Duff, opens this weekend and it's worth a look, despite its troubled production history and bad reviews. The sisters Duff play the Marchetta sisters, Los Angeles cosmetics heiresses, who lose their riches and learn to live like the rest of us as they struggle to regain their company and rehabilitate their late father's reputation. So long as you keep your expectations low, the film delivers as a silly romp like "Uptown Girls," or "Maid to Order," perfect for wasting an hour or two out of the heat on a summer day.

Martha Coolidge directs the film as a bookend to her earlier film, "Valley Girl." Once again we follow a SoCal girl's journey outside her comfortable bubble. On this trip, Coolidge surrounds her protagonists with veteran actors like Angelica Huston, Faith Prince, Brent Spiner (who gets a fun bit of business mocking his "Star Trek: The Next Generation" origins), Lukas Haas and Obba Babatunde. The biggest surprise is Haylie Duff's strong performance--who knew the girl had comedic presence? The less said about her sister the better...

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photo credit: Joyce Rudolph

Los Angeles plays a big role in the film, too. Martha Coolidge has stated that she wanted to highlight the unseen sides of Los Angeles. Indeed, she insisted on shooting in Los Angeles in order to support our local production crews and craftsmen (Peggy Archer of the Totally Unauthorized blog worked on the lighting crew) and Xochi Blymyer was an A.D.). It was a smart move as the film's production values are inventive and eye-catching. There's plenty of jokes made at the expense of spoiled Angelenos: the Marchettas repeatedly mistake bystanders for valets and lose their pricey car when they hand their keys to some hapless guys on the streets of Echo Park.

It's fun to spot LA locations, which are used in surprising ways. When the girls drive to their offices in downtown from their big spread in Pasadena, they zoom across the 1st Street Bridge toward the garment district with the city's towers looming on the horizon like a dusty Emerald City. Although the Marchetta offices are set downtown, the actual interiors were shot at the Wella Factory in Woodland Hills. The girls learn key information from a witness who lives out in the horse country of Las Tunas Canyon in Sun Valley. Century City plays a crucial role in the film's plot as well.

So give these material girls a chance; the film may actually amuse and surprise you. It's leagues ahead of other celeb-teen fare like the Olsen Twin's "New York Minute."