Some ten years ago, a poster for a film starring wealthy heiress Paris Hilton boasted its status IMDb’s “#1 Film”. The small print below read that it was actually #1 on the site’s infamous Bottom 250.
It would be just dandy to claim that The Hottie and the Nottie is in fact the Worst Film Ever Made or the Worst Film I’ve Ever Seen. Sadly, it’s simply just too boring to even be that bothered about. For a(nother) shameless exploitation of its star’s fame, the film (unlike too many Sandler Suffocators) at least had the good sense to have a reasonably small budget of $9 million (still many millions more than some of the greatest films ever made). While it would go on to make just over a ninth of that sum at the box office, it hardly feels like it had any considerably negative impact on the future creation of motion pictures. For this reason, it seems somewhat unfair to criticise its listless, unfunny performances, its tepid writing, its rampant clichés and its comprehensive lack of comedy. Its central message, while troubled (that beauty is only skin deep, but if you’re REALLY ugly it’s good to have a makeover), is essentially Beauty & The Beast on barbiturates – there are too many other, better films that have the exact same conceit. It’s hard to refer to this as a ‘fascist eugenics tract’ (as Mark Kermode once did) and hold those films in higher esteem just because they’re better.
But it’s still unspeakably bad though. The lead character (presented to the viewer as exactly the kind of zippy, neurotic romantic comedy antihero that populates dozens of other films) is essentially a stalker in the midst of a nervous breakdown (after an eye-opening breakup, he travels FIVE-THOUSAND MILES to be with his one true love: Paris Hilton) who resorts to increasingly sociopathic techniques to win over the world’s most beautiful flower angel (Paris Hilton). His key strategy (given to him by his not-Jonah Hill friend) is to associate himself with Paris Hilton’s ‘ugly’ friend (the eponymous nottie) in order to prove to Paris Hilton (the eponymous Hottie) that he is a sensitive man with feelings. This friend is not merely ugly however – she’s haggard, decrepit, infected and generally mangled in every way that will allow an audience to be grossed out. What follows is the typical She’s All That scenario where a calamitous series of events draws “our hero” closer to the ugly duckling whose inner beauty becomes more and more apparent (especially as she has extensive plastic surgery over the course of the film). Meanwhile, Paris Hilton pretends to be drunk and pretends to fart using a whoopee cushion (far be it from Paris Hilton to suggest for a moment that Paris Hilton could ever actually lose the run of herself and break wind) as her dominance over her own film begins to subside.
For a film made for $9 million, it is curiously absent of anyone particularly well known outside of Paris Hilton herself. Christine Lakin (the titular Nottie) seemingly has a healthy career as a jobbing TV actor, bouncing from role to role in various episodes of police procedurals and family sitcoms. Character actor Joel David Moore is a recognisable enough character actor with roles in Dodgeball and Avatar – “a role he will reprise in upcoming sequels Avatar 2 and Avatar 3” according to his conspicuously lengthy Wikipedia.com profile. Speaking of user-generated content, his role in The Hottie and the Nottie receives no mention whatsoever, beyond the customary listing in the Filmography section – like his shadow, The Hottie and the Nottie is the one thing he can never hide.
The film was obviously designed as a vehicular pet project for Paris Hilton (one of the production companies is listed as ‘Paris Hilton Entertainment’), it nonetheless feels like screenwriter Heidi Ferrer must have dusted off a spec script for an episode of How I Met Your Mother (or whatever) that she had lying around and changed around the names. Nothing is original, everything is a cliché. Unlike the utterly madcap farce by the likes of the Wayans Brothers, the film has the gall to present its characters as ostensibly real, rather than the cartoons you would expect from a film starring Paris Hilton (who is a terrible actor by the way). This, combined with the kind of gross-out vulgarity you would expect from an afternoon in Guantanomo (a scene in which a man swallows an infected toenail beggars belief) results in something that is both sickly sweet and rotten to the core – like chomping down on a Halloween toffee apple in February.