The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Trivia Track

"Don't make me feed you to one of the models."

Alright… let's put it all on the table. First off, I'm a man… but at the same time, I secretly TiVo "Project Runway" on Bravo to watch with my wife. In my book, it's arguably the only great reality show on television. Secondly, I'm the kind of guy that tells everyone how much I hate chick flicks… which I do for the most part because they're just so unoriginal and badly written. But mainly, it's because when I watch them, I occasionally find little gems like "The Devil Wears Prada" that bring out the little girl in me. Needless to say… it really creeps me out and my wife loves to make fun of me for it every chance she gets.

Football. Beef. The Marines. There… I feel better. So, let me open up this review by saying this: even if you're the unwilling boyfriend or husband of a woman who can't wait to see this movie… relax. The world won't end when you watch it and you may even find yourself enjoying something that surprisingly develops into a sharp and good-natured comedy.

The story, based on the best selling, fictionalized auto-biography of Lauren Weisberger, follows Anne Hathaway from her simple, frumpy, JCPenny's lifestyle as she's thrust into the world of high fashion under the hellish tutelage of Meryl Streep, playing an inhuman magazine editor. It's a standard tale of a young adult that's introduced to the evils of the world, only to find that a choice must be made between success and happiness. Will Hathaway choose her old, comfortable life with her shaggy-haired, tattered-jeans boyfriend? Or will she become as dementedly cold and emotionless as her icy boss? The answers to questions like these doesn't really matter because, from the beginning, you know where the film is going and you know where everyone will end up. You've seen this movie a thousand times and, on its surface, it should be the worst of its kind simply because it's just so familiar.

But it's here that the movie shines. With intent and purpose, the filmmakers surround our oh-so-familiar characters and plotlines with a brisk and witty cast of supporting characters that bring the world and the swirling emotions of cut-throat business to life. Stanley Tucci, in particular, is hilarious, biting, and layered with a hidden sweetness reminiscent of the kind found so abundantly in Hathaway's world. His character, along with many others, are so one-note at first glance, that you'll be surprised when things begin to shift and evolve and their characters exhibit depth and development. By the end, the entire story is actually about a multitude of people who have made the choice Hathaway is presented with and each of them are in various states of acceptance or denial about their jobs, their lives, and their individuality. Once that's established, even the lead characters, particularly Streep, begin to reveal the same layers that comprise a complicated human being rather than a typical archetype.

You could easily replace all of the flamboyance and petty obsessions of the fashion industry with the trappings of any other large corporation… and the movie and its message would function just as well. That's what the professors call a 'universal theme' and it means the story can click with anyone. I would never go quite so far as to call "The Devil Wears Prada" great, because it's simply not the kind of movie I rush out to see. But it is one of the best of its kind and extremely light and enjoyable. That's saying a lot coming from me.

Hands down, this is one of the best looking Blu-Ray titles I've seen this early in the format's lifespan. Sure, some heavy laden, special effects extravaganzas are more impressive for wowing your friends, but for a movie without CG and other tricks of the HD trade, it looks perfect. The movie's aspect ratio is a tad pretentious at 2.35:1 for this kind of story, but it does make the city seem wondrous and massive as it towers over Hathaway. The disc is encoded using the MPEG-2 codec on a single layer and I didn't catch any noise or scratches. It's as flawless as you could expect and only exhibits a slight field of grain across the picture in darker scenes that isn't distracting at all. The colors are dead on as well, especially in a movie focusing on fashion and the things people find beautiful. Skin tones, particularly with all of the close-ups, stand up for your attention and remain both natural and warm.

The audio is presented in a lossless 5.1 DTS track and it's a welcome, although unnecessary, addition to this Blu-Ray release. The sound mix is exactly what I would expect, with whispered lines still retaining their clarity and frantic shouts never wavering in quality. The surround sound catches your attention in crowded scenes with nice blasts of mingling voices that hit from every direction. But, as I said, there isn't anything complicated enough in the sound design that requires a lossless track. The audiophiles among you will cheer, but I would've rather seen that space used for something else on a single layer Blu-Ray title. My only major complaint with "The Devil Wears Prada" is the soundtrack. It's passable, but it's comprised of a list of obvious song choices for a genre movie such as this. I understand the tone of the music, but do we really need such basic and uninteresting lyrics representing characters we're supposed to be growing to love? Films like Garden State prove that an optimistic soundtrack can still have depth and thought provoking lyrics and themes without being so ordinary.

And finally, the extras. In their most recent releases, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has taken a turn for the worse with Special Editions that seem haunted by throw-away supplemental features. This trend has been growing in the industry since DVD was born and is often due to the studio holding back their best material in the hopes of double-dipping with a more exciting Special Edition in the future. The features here are so plodding, self congratulatory, unnecessary, and overly technical, that they're quite annoying. The commentary, which could be a chance to talk about culture and the fashion industry's role in it, is guided to discussing the most banal technical details you can imagine. For a movie so reliant on its ensemble, a cast commentary with the director would've been much more entertaining. Like Fox's recent "X-Men: The Last Stand" (which ironically appears as a trailer on this disc), the deleted scenes are uninteresting, short, and add nothing to the characters or their development. I congratulate the director for cutting them as they're usually alternate takes or tail ends of scenes that worked better without them. However, I question Fox for even using space to put them alongside this movie. For all of the attention put into this disc's presentation, the supplements are unforgivably shallow and I'd rather have no features than features that exist to fill space and sell more copies.

So, with all of that said, let's be honest again: girls, you already know whether this is your kind of film or not. If this is your thing… you'll see it and love it. Guys? Don't panic. "The Devil Wears Prada" is surprisingly funny, looks amazing on your testosterone-fueled HDTV, and scores you massive points with your girl… especially if you convince her that you didn't enjoy the movie as much as you did.