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David Frankel
Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer, Simon Baker
Writing Credits:
Aline Brosh McKenna, Lauren Weisberger (novel)

Hell on Heels.

Based on the hilarious best-selling novel, this sinfully funny movie starring Academy Award winner Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway is "sensationally entertaining in every way" (Maxim). As assistant to impossibly demanding New York fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Streep), young Andy Sachs (Hathaway) has landed a job that "a million girls would die for." Unfortunately, her heaven-sent appointment as Miranda's personal whipping girl just might be the death of her!

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$27.537 million on 2847 screens.
Domestic Gross
$124.541 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/12/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director David Frankel, Producer Wendy Finerman, Costume Designer Patricia Field, Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, Editor Mark Livolsi, and Director of Photography Florian Ballhaus
• Five Featurettes
• 15 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Gag Reel
• Trailers
• TV Spots


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2006)

For an interesting contrast in box office fortunes, we go back to the last few days of June 2006. Both Superman Returns and The Devil Wears Prada opened almost simultaneously, and on paper, Superman was the financial winner. It ultimately snagged $200 million in the US, while Prada lagged well beyond with $124 millon. And yet most view Prada as a big hit and see Superman as a disappointment.

How come? Because of expectations, of course. Due to about a decade of start and stop production – including a number of come and gone actors and directors attached to earlier attempts at the project - Superman ran up an enormous budget that approached $300 million. Warner Bros. also touted Superman as one of the summer’s big attractions, so $200 million seemed lackluster for a project of its ambitions.

On the other hand, Prada came with little advance hype. Made for a mere $35 million and deposited into cinemas at a time of year more usually populated by big-budget blockbusters, Prada found that same magical territory as another piece of summer “counterprogramming” that made tons of bucks, 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Prada didn’t reach the same heights as the $230 million grossing Greek, but it nonetheless emerged as the summer’s biggest surprise success.

Prada introduces us to Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a young aspiring journalist. She gets a coveted position at Runway magazine, a key player in the fashion scene. This comes with a price, however: total subservience to the every whim of tyrannical editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep).

Their interactions account for the main story arc of Prada. We see how Andy suffers under Miranda and how she also impresses her boss. We watch her evolution from frumpy college girl into fashionable babe-about-town, and we also examine how all of this impacts her relationships outside of work. The key conflict comes between Andy and live-in boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier), an issue exacerbated because he now feels marginalized as part of her life.

Although I don’t gravitate toward “chick flicks” – a genre in which Prada clearly belongs – the preview for this one intrigued me. The Prada trailer took an unusual path, as it didn’t include the expected montage of clips. Instead, the promo featured a slightly-shortened version of the scene in which Andy first meets Miranda. This gives us a simple but concise synopsis of what the movie will be. We find a clear encapsulation of the main personalities and get a sense of the film’s sense of humor.

That was enough to make me willing to slap down $9 to see Prada on the big screen. Too bad the rest of the flick doesn’t manage to live up to its trailer’s promises. Oh, the film occasionally manages to remind us of its potential, but too much of it degenerates into a girly fantasy of life in the world of big fashion.

Actually, that may not be fair, but I admit that’s the impression the movie leaves with me. When I think back on it, images of Andy in one snazzy outfit after another come to mind. In truth, those elements don’t fill much of the flick’s running time, but they seem like they dominate.

That’s because Prada often lacks much else to stand out to us. When the film succeeds, it does so for one reason and one reason alone: Streep. Expect Oscar consideration for her stellar turn as Miranda. Streep almost saves the flick, as she offers such a delightfully cold and bitchy turn that she makes us enjoy the film despite its fairy tale princess undertones.

She’s delightfully cool and in control, a factor that makes one particular scene unlikable. We see Miranda show an emotional side and that choice fizzles. Who wants to see her weepy and vulnerable? Not me. Otherwise Streep is absolutely perfect as the self-absorbed but absolutely self-confident fashion maven.

And there ends my discussion of what I like about Prada. Not that the rest of the film stinks, but Streep sets the bar so high that the remainder becomes mediocre at best. Truly, we miss Miranda when we don’t see her, especially since Andy is such a dull character. I like Hathaway and enjoy her work, but she gets stuck with a dud here. She can’t manage to create much to interest us with Andy, so we’re almost immediately bored when the film chooses to focus on her. Since that’s the vast majority of the time, long stretches of dullness permeate the flick.

Much of the story comes across as contrived, particularly in the methods used to create stress in Andy’s personal life. I genuinely hated Nate and her other friends, as the movie consistently seem judgmental and unpleasant. Yeah, I understand that Andy neglects them and they become frustrated, but the film paints them as borderline nasty when they’re with Andy. Why couldn’t they simply accept that Andy will have a terrible year with Miranda but support her because it’s so important to her?

Because then we wouldn’t have an underlying tension in the story, that’s why. We’d still have an interesting movie, but the filmmakers would have needed some other overriding plot. Andy’s life and the affect of Miranda’s pressures create the main emphasis, so without the tension between Andy and her friends, we’d require some other thread.

And that’d be fine with me. Maybe a version of Prada that lost the obnoxious friends would use more of Miranda and actually entertain on a consistent basis. As it stands, Prada only sporadically works. It never becomes quite catty and bitchy enough to succeed, as it teases us with those moments but leaves us wanting more.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Devil Wears Prada appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a decent transfer but not one that seemed up to par for a recent film.

A few concerns connected to sharpness occurred. At times the movie became a bit soft and indistinct. However, it usually remained reasonably concise and accurate. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but a little edge enhancement occurred. Source flaws never appeared during this clean transfer.

Colors could be a little pale but they usually seemed fine. Most of the movie exhibited fairly solid tones, though the slightly flat ones created some distractions. Some of this appeared to be connected to visual design, as the tones brightened when Andy became more fashionable. Blacks seemed fine, while shadows were acceptable. Low-light shots could be a bit muddy, but they were adequate across the board. Though Prada always remained decent, it never seemed much better than that.

Given the subject matter, I anticipated little from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Devil Wears Prada, and the mix matched my expectations. The soundscape usually remained modest and focused on gentle environmental information. Not much activity emerged from this subdued piece, as it stayed with light ambience much of the time. A few scenes – New York streets, a storm in Florida – added some kick at least. The surrounds lacked much involvement and never stood out as anything noticeable beyond what I just mentioned.

Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and crisp, with no edginess. Effects were clean and accurate, while music sounded smooth and concise. Low-end response was perfectly adequate. This was a more than acceptable mix for a low-key movie.

A decent roster of extras fills out the disc. We open with an audio commentary from director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Mark Livolsi, and director of photography Florian Ballhaus. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They cover sets and locations, cast, characters and performances, story issues, musical choices, script and the adaptation of the novel, editing and cut scenes, a few visual choices, and clothes.

Lots and lots about clothes, as a matter of fact, which makes sense given the movie’s focus. We get a full accounting of all the different outfits worn in the flick, but the commentary doesn’t wind up as little more than a dull regurgitation of designers. Those moments are informative since they include insights into why the various styles were chosen, and we get many other good glimpses of the production. I especially like the notes about how Streep remained somewhat “in character” during the shoot, as she’d keep herself aloof from the others. The commentary covers the appropriate subjects well and provides a nice overview.

Five featurettes follow. These start with The Trip to the Big Screen, a 12-minute and two-second melange of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We find notes from Frankel, Finerman and McKenna. The show looks at how Frankel came onto the project as well as adaptation concerns and the development of the script. We hear about the flick’s tone and characters and where the filmmakers took both. We already hear a little about these subjects in the commentary, but we get different thoughts about the various issues here. That allows “Trip” to offer a good synopsis of script and story topics.

During the six-minute and 24-second NYC and Fashion, we hear from Finerman, Frankel, Field, and actors Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep, and Anne Hathaway. The piece examines the outfits worn by the movie’s characters, the flick’s general sense of fashion and its use of New York as a location. Though fairly glossy and fluffy, we get a decent look at the choices made in this brisk and reasonably interesting short.

A closer look at the costume designer pops up in Fashion Visionary Patricia Field. This eight-minute and 45-second piece includes comments from Field, Frankel, Hathaway, Streep and Finerman. We get info about how Field got into fashion and the movies as well as her role on Prada. At times the show feels like a fluffy tribute to Field – with a title like “Fashion Visionary”, that becomes tough to avoid – but there’s more than enough good content to make it worth a look.

Getting Valentino goes for two minutes, 53 seconds and features Frankel, Finerman, and fashion designer Valentino Garavani. We learn how the filmmakers managed to lure Valentino into helping with the flick and doing his cameo. It’s a quick but concise view of the subject.

For the last featurette, we find the two-minute and 36-second Boss from Hell. It presents Frankel, Hathaway and Tucci. This is a glorified trailer that recaps story and characters in a general manner and throws out a few tales from anonymous folks about their real-life difficult bosses. It’s not very interesting.

15 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 21 minutes and 35 seconds. One of the more interesting shows Andy’s interview with human resources that led her to Runway, and we also get a funny formal introduction between Andy and Nigel. There’s also more of Andy as she acclimates to the job and deals with various pressures there. A fair number of these offer minor extensions to existing scenes. Some come across as bland filler, but there’s actually quite a lot of good material on display here.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Frankel and Livosi. They offer some notes about the scenes and let us know why they didn’t end up in the final cut. Interestingly, Frankel relates that he never saw many of these, as Livosi dropped them before they ever made it to the director’s desk. The guys provide very useful information.

A Gag Reel runs five minutes and eight seconds. It includes a lot of the usual mistakes and giggles bot not anything particularly memorable other than some funny ad-libs from Tucci and Streep.

Finally, we get some Trailers and TV Spots. In addition to the theatrical ad for Prada, we locate a trailer for The Illusionist, TV promos for In Her Shoes and The Family Stone, and a piece for the Prada soundtrack.

The Devil Wears Prada emerged as a left field hit, and the movie occasionally becomes sassy and provocative enough to warrant its success. Unfortunately, too much of the flick concentrates on its dull protagonist and takes us away from the character we really want to follow: Meryl Streep’s cool, calculating Miranda. When the film leaves her, it sags. The DVD presents fairly lackluster picture and audio along with a few tasty extras highlighted by a good audio commentary and interesting deleted scenes. Overall, this ends up as a fairly average release for a sporadically entertaining film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2727 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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