Your regularly scheduled reviewer Josh here. Having done this job for quite a long time, I occasionally find myself unqualified to comment on certain types of movie. I'm talking of course about chick flicks. Especially chick flicks about the fashion industry, in which a supposedly frumpy (but actually flawlessly beautiful) starlet learns to empower herself by playing dress-up in a series of ridiculous costumes while a flower-pop song previously featured on Grey's Anatomy blares on the soundtrack. Sorry, some films are simply not made for me. You might as well ask Mel Gibson to critique Yentl. It's just utterly beyond my comprehension. As such, my wife Elizabeth has graciously agreed to tackle the movie review portion of The Devil Wears Prada. I hope that readers find a proper female perspective more useful than anything I could write. I'll return for the technical portions of the article below. Enjoy.
"I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight."
As the wife of a film junkie, I've been subjected to, and come to love, a wide array of art house indies, weighty documentaries, and subtitled foreign films. I've even suffered through some anime, although I've yet to see the appeal. I can appreciate the artistry and depth of directors like Fellini, Renoir, Lynch, and Soderbergh and enjoy films that inspire thoughtful debate. That said, there are days when nothing hits the spot like donning some cozy pajamas, making a big bowl of popcorn, and curling up on the couch with a delightfully frothy chick flick.
In The Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway, best known for her fairy princess roles, trades her glass slippers for a pair of thigh high Chanel boots. All the essential fairy tale elements are here: an adorably spunky heroine, a deliciously wicked boss, a loyal boyfriend, a worldly suitor, and a fabulous fashion godfather. Finding it difficult to land her dream job as a serious reporter, idealistic young journalist Andy Sachs falls into the job "a million girls would kill for" as Runway magazine editor Miranda Priestly's second assistant. She quickly learns that this job will require not only a makeover (cue Madonna's "Vogue" for the fashion montage), but also the loss of her personal life and quite possibly her soul.
Hathaway lights up the screen as Andy and is joined by a strong supporting cast. Emily Blunt shines as Miranda's first assistant and Stanley Tucci has fun as the snarky Nigel, Andy's guide through the treacherous world of high fashion. But it is Meryl Streep's performance as the title character that is most notable for adding shades of gray that didn't exist in Lauren Weisberger's novel. We see what she has given up to reach the top of her field and are left to wonder if the same work/life balance and ageism struggles are faced by Donald Trump and Ted Turner.
Like any good chick flick our heroine must have a love interest. Entourage star Adrian Grenier is charmingly swoon-worthy as Andy's steadfast beau (those eyes... and he cooks!). Simon Baker provides some nice eye candy as the suave older man who introduces Andy to Paris and the darker side of the fashion world. But this movie is more about the boardroom than the bedroom and the most compelling scenes are between Andy and her colleagues.
Over the top costume design by Sex and the City style maven Patricia Field (who also provides audio commentary) adds a touch of whimsy, and glimpses inside the fictional Runway fashion closet are a nice treat for would be fashionistas (or even for those of us who occasionally skim thru Vogue on the treadmill). While the film has it flaws, most notably an excessive use of montages, overall it's a better than average guilty pleasure that will have you cheering for Andy and perhaps feeling some sympathy for the Devil.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The Devil Wears Prada debuts on the Blu-ray format courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Blu-ray discs are only playable in a compatible Blu-ray player. They will not function in a standard DVD player or in an HD DVD player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.
The Devil Wears Prada Blu-ray is encoded in High Definition 1080p format using MPEG2 compression on a single-layer 25 gb disc. The movie is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 with letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 16:9 frame.
This disc looks terrific. The movie has splendid, appropriately glossy photography by Florian Ballhaus (son of acclaimed cinematographer Michael Ballhaus) and has been transferred to High Definition extremely well. The picture is sharp and detailed, with no edge enhancement artifacts. Black levels are rich and have excellent shadow detail, lending the image a nice sense of depth. Colors are rich and vibrant, from Hathaway's porcelain skin and ruby lipstick to all the outlandish costumes on the fashion models, without a trace of noise or bleeding. There's some especially great High-Def imagery once the movie transitions to Paris.
The film is fleetingly grainy in a few places (some of the runway scenes were shot on 16mm for effect). The very opening of the movie looks a little noisy, but otherwise there are no digital or compression artifacts to note. The picture has a very nice, film-like texture and appearance.
The Devil Wears Prada Blu-ray disc is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over a Blu-ray player's analog Component Video outputs.
The movie's soundtrack is provided in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing no Blu-ray hardware is capable of properly decoding the full Master Audio lossless codec. Instead, players extract the lossy DTS core, which is equivalent to DVD quality. It still sounds very good, but may offer further improvements when advanced hardware is released in the future.
The Prada soundtrack is typical for a romantic comedy. Dialogue and sound effects are clear (the ring of Andy's cell phone is intentionally piercing), but the movie has no surround activity at all that I could notice, not even ambient noises or music bleed. Some of the songs on the soundtrack (notably "Vogue") offer rocking bass, but it comes out a little boomy here. Aside from that, fidelity is fine. It's just not a showy sound mix.
Subs & Dubs:
Optional subtitles – English or Spanish.
Alternate language tracks - French or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1.
Most of the bonus features on this Blu-ray title are recycled from the DVD edition and are presented in Standard Definition video with MPEG2 compression. Only a portion of the supplements from the DVD have carried over.
Also included are some trailers for random Fox titles. Missing from the DVD edition are five featurettes, dropped for no apparent reason.
- Audio Commentary - Participants include director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (whose nasally voice sounds like she's fighting a cold), editor Mark Livolsi, and director of photography Florian Ballhaus. The group was recorded together with plenty of lively interplay. The track is a good listen that covers all the basics of making the movie such as the story and characters, adapting the novel, some technical elements, and of course the elaborate fashion design.
- Deleted Scenes (22 min.) – Fifteen scenes are provided with optional commentary by Frankel and Livolsi. Stanley Tucci and Aquaman (Adrian Grenier) have a couple of funny bits, but most of this footage amounts to padding and scene extensions. It feels like every scrap of film was retrieved from the cutting room floor to be included here.
- Gag Reel (5 min.) – Tucci again has some good improv moments, and there are a couple of funny pratfalls involving the female cast's trouble with high heel shoes, but I found the rest of this reel rather tedious. For what it's worth, Elizabeth thought it was "cute".
Exclusive to the Blu-ray is:
- Trivia Track - Pop-up notes can be run simultaneously with the commentary track, and in fact I recommend it because the trivia bits get to be rather sparse as the movie progresses. There is some duplication of content with the commentary, however. The notes primarily focus on the use of fashion in the film, identifying the designers behind each outfit and providing some background history on the fashion house itself. The audience for this movie will probably find it interesting and entertaining.
Thanks to my wife Elizabeth for giving us the female perspective on The Devil Wears Prada. To all the guys out there, as far as chick-flicks go this one's not too painful if you're in need of something to keep your Significant Other happy. The Blu-ray has some pretty nice picture quality and comes recommended.
Rumor Has It (Blu-ray)
HD Review Index
High-Def Revolution – DVDTalk's HD Column
Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player