A plain romantic comedy that really doesn't succeed or fail, "Little Black Book" coasts along fairly uneventfully, offering up a few laughs and a good bit or two before the credits roll. Brittany Murphy, offered up here for the first time in a role where she has to carry the movie, doesn't do terribly well, revealing a rather lackluster ability to play comedy (although, to her credit, the screenplay isn't particularly funny) or the film's emotional moments. I've liked Murphy in the past, but she's gone a little too long without doing anything new.
Here, Murphy stars as Stacy Holt, a young woman who finds herself settling on a job on the local Kippie Kann show, a talk show that resembles Jerry Springer or Jenny Jones. She's having a great relationship with Derek (Ron Livingston of "Office Space"), but she's curious about his past relationships after hearing that he once dated a girl that's now a model. After encouragement from her co-worker, Barb (Holly Hunter), Stacy takes Derek's palm pilot and tries to do some investigating of her own, meeting up with Lulu (Josie Maran), Joyce (Julianne Nicholson, offering the film's best performance) and gynecologist Katie (Rashida Jones).
There's a small, decent idea at the core of the film - with palm pilots and other such electronics becoming a part of the dating world these days, it's fairly easy to see how these gadgets could be become part of the plot of a film like this. Writers Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell, however, really don't mine much from it, going for sitcom situations and thinly-realized characters. It could also have done a nice parody or behind-the-scenes look at talk/reality shows, but the "Kippy Kann" (played pretty well by Kathy Bates) segments aren't memorable. There's some interesting bits towards the end, as the film takes a twist or two, but it's a little too late.
There are some bright spots here, though. Holly Hunter provides an energetic, funny performance that livens up the material quite a bit. Murphy is still likable, but "Book" doesn't show that she's able to hold her own in this kind of role. Livingston is satisfactory in a limited role, as is Kathy Bates. Direction by Nick Hurran (the Brit comedy "Virtual Sexuality") is fairly low-key, and the film could use a bit more spark and energy. Theo van de Sande's cinematography is fine, and Christophe Beck's score works.
This mixture of comedy and drama doesn't work as well as it should, but it does present some specks of ideas regarding work and relationships. The film never gets the mixture of light and emotional that well though, (the light parts aren't funny and the drama is too sappy), and Murphy demonstrates that she should probably be part of an ensemble instead of carrying her own film.
VIDEO: "Little Black Book" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is of sweet quality, as although the image wasn't flawless, it was awfully nice looking for the majority of the running time. The picture remained crisp and well-defined through most of the scenes, although a few shots looked a tad soft.
The only way that the picture stumbled was that it showed a bit of edge enhancement here-and-there, along with a few brief, trace instances of pixelation. The print appeared to be in excellent condition, with no specks, marks or other instances of wear. The film's naturalistic color palette was well-presented here, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: "Little Black Book" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0. The film's soundtrack delivers what one would expect from a comedy flick like this, with very limited surround use (some of the "Kippy Kann" show moments had some crowd ambience in the surrounds.) Audio quality seemed fine, with clear, well-recorded dialogue and music.
EXTRAS: A brief "making of" and a short featurette about talk shows. There's also previews for "Are We There Yet?", "Mona Lisa Smile", "Maid in Manhattan", "13 Going on 30" and "The Forgotten".
Final Thoughts: "Little Black Book" veers between comedy and drama, but it never really gets laughs and the dramatic portions are shaky. There's some positive aspects regarding the film, but the script isn't great and the movie never comes together well enough. Columbia/Tristar offers a DVD with very good video quality, fine audio and a couple very minor supplements. Those interested might want to try a rental.