Friday, 16 February 2007

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

John Tucker Must Die

Tuesday's free morning commuter newspaper, Metro, carried a review of John Tucker Must Die which I reviewed on DVD last week. Awarding it a lowly one star, the paper's reviewer dismissed it as unbelievable, unrealistic, juvenile tripe. The review might have carried more weight if the same issue hadn't also carried a review of The Devil Wears Prada, an equally unbelievable, unrealistic, juvenile film, which received a five star rating. Go figure!

It really does seem like there's one rule for a film that stars a himbo from a TV soap, and another completely different one that applies when the film stars an established, well-liked actress!

The Devil Wears Prada screencap

That being said, I have to admit that Meryl Streep is very good in The Devil Wears Prada - I just wish she'd been given a better script to play with. Not only is the whole story about the fashion industry even more unconvincing than that of John Tucker Must Die, there just aren't anywhere near as many laughs, partly because the film seems to want to poke fun at the fashion industry, whilst also promoting it. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too (although presumably, given the subject matter here, it's more a case of wanting to eat your cake and
then throw it up too!)

The always likeable Anne Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a recently graduated journalist looking for her first job, and forced to take on a role as chief gofer and doormat for a fashion magazine editor who's the primadonna monster from hell (played by Streep). Somehow Hathaway's character manages to survive her boss' ridiculous demands (including a demand for the latest unpublished Harry Potter novel for her kids - riiiiiiiight!) and turns from ugly fashion virgin into stunning fashion obsessive, losing her friends and boyfriend on the way, only coming to realise what's really important in life in the final moments of the film.

The Devil Wears Prada screencap

To say clichés abound here would be an insult to a cliché! We have the incredibly attractive Hathaway being treated as the 'poor kid with no looks or dress sense'. I mean, come on! Ugly Betty she isn't! The amazingly quick transformation into fashion goddess is just plain silly, as is her sudden personality change when it comes to prioritising the right things in her life. Then we get her nemesis, the girl out to do for her. She's mean! She's nasty! She's neurotic! I wonder what nationality they'll get to play her! Oh, quelle suprise - she's a Brit! One Hollywood cliché follows another to the point that one is watching the equivalent of a Size 0 screenplay filled out to a Size 6 with all the excess fat from every other 'safe' film that's been made.

There's nothing much to complain about in terms of direction, the characters, or the way things keep moving along, it's just that that's all they ever do - move along, without any real sense of purpose, direction or even a proper story. But Streep IS entertaining, and Hathaway is very easy on the eye.

The Devil Wears Prada screencap

I think it was Five Live film critic Mark Kermode who described the film as having been 'made for thirteen year old girls' and I think he's about got the measure of it. The film is bland, safe, predictable and just too 'nice' to be the witty satire it wants to be. Why the film should have received quite so much hype (earning itself a ridiculous amount of money at the box office), while other, similar films (like John Tucker Must Die) languish in 'dissed by the critics' hell I just don't understand.

This is another excellent transfer, and the extra's are pretty generous too, although someone really should tell the female producer who's featured that she's appearing in a documentary and not meant to be doing a send-up of an overly gushing, pretentious fashion magazine editor. As is becoming the norm with DVDs these days a single decent-length Making of feature is split into several mini-featurettes to make it appear the disc is jam-packed with goodies. Unfortunately the featurettes err far too much towards the 'marketing fluff' rather than genuinely informative side of things, and the same few tired clips, featured in endless TV ads and trailers, get repeated over and over again.

The Devil Wears Prada screencap

There's a generous 20 minutes of Deleted Scenes which are finished to the same high standard as the main feature itself and include optional director commentary, together with a five minute gag reel which isn't as shabby as most gag reels tend to be, and a theatrical trailer. There's also a Commentary track from the film's costume designer, director, writer, editor and photographer, but I'm afraid I just didn't have the patience or interest to listen to it.

This is an OK rental, and it's not a bad film for the middle of the road audience it's aimed at. It's certainly better than the likes of Mrs Henderson Presents, but there are so many better movies out there that unless you're a Streep fan who has to see everything she does, this is not a film you need to actively seek out to make a point of seeing. Streep's performance and Hathaway's cheery girl-next-door one are probably worth the price of admission, but it feels such a wasted opportunity that they haven't been given a better, more original script to work with. It's hard to imagine anybody wanting to see this more than once, so it's definitely a rental rather than a

The Devil Wears Prada screencap

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