How did this happen? How did 'The Devil Wears Prada' manage to become the sleeper smash of the summer, grossing over $300 million worldwide? This is the kind of chick flick extraordinare that seemed destined to drive men to see 'Mission: Impossible III' in the next screen over, while their girlfriends sat in the theater alone, munching popcorn. Instead, 'Prada' easily toppled that Tom Cruise would-be blockbuster and -- thanks to its witty characters, sharp dialogue, universally appealing storyline and an inspired, Oscar-ready turn by Meryl Streep -- easily became the best date movie in years.
Based on the best-selling roman a clef by Lauren Weisberger, who concocted her fictionalized memoir after toiling for years under the tutelage of notorious Vogue editor Anna Wintour, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna nicely tones down the darkly acerbic underbelly of Weisberger's biting satire and fashions a more crowd-pleasing, humanistic, underdog-makes-good story.
Anne Hathaway stars as the smart but slightly dowdy Andrea Sachs, fresh to New York and flush with big, idealistic dreams of making it as a journalist. Enter an entry-level job working as an assistant to Miranda Priestly (Played by Streep), who redefines the term "Boss from Hell." Her idea of fun seems to be berating, humiliating and over-working poor Andy, as well as her senior assistant Emily (Emily Blunt, in a terrific supporting turn) and good-natured right-hand man Nigel (perfectly cast Stanley Tucci). Soon Andy will struggle with a crisis of conscience -- sell her soul by continuing to work for Miranda, or give up the extravagances of a high-fashion career and return to her bohemian life with boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier). It's tough to say no to the devil -- especially when she offers such a nice wardrobe.
Both the script and Streep ultimately humanize Priestly to the point that she really isn't the Devil -- maybe just a Very Important Demon. We may still not like Miranda and the terrible things she does, but we do ultimately understand her motives and her behavior. That dilutes much of Weisberger's more damning satire, but this cinderella story is so winning, we hardly care.
Much of the praise for'The Devil Wears Prada' ultimately comes back to Streep -- imagine Cruella De Vil by way of Sigourney Weaver in 'Working Girl,' only with smarter, tarter dialogue. Streep eats, chews and spits out every line with such panache that she elevates the movie far above its sometimes shopworn cliches and contrivances. In the hands of a lesser actor, Miranda Priestly is the kind of character that might have turned into a truly grotesque caricature or offensive put-down (just witness the performances from most of the fine cast of Robert Altman's 'Ready to Wear' for an example of how not to do fashion satire). Instead, Streep will likely earn a record fifteenth Oscar nomination for her efforts, and she absolutely deserves it. She turns an otherwise frothy, effervescent confection into a comedy that is truly inspired, sublime and delicious. Bon appetit!
'The Devil Wears Prada' hits Blu-ray looking exactly like I thought it should. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and 1080p/MPEG-2 video, this pristine new release is as smooth and shiny as a new pair of Prada high heels, and is certainly one of the best Fox has yet offered.
Colors are excellent, with the somewhat heightened hues still retaining a natural and noise-free veneer. Fleshtones are also spot-on, with Anne Hathaway consistently bathed in a nice orange glow. Detail is generally superb, with a lush sense of depth and dimensionality up there with the best MPEG-2 encodes I've seen. Blacks are also absolute rock solid, and the picture sharp is as a tack.
Any complaints are relatively minor. Some of the outdoor scenes look a bit washed-out due some slightly overblown contrast; this is likely an intentional stylistic choice, so I can't knock it too harshly. There is also the occasional patch of video noise noticeable -- at least on my 70" Sony (I'm guessing it will be all but imperceptible on displays 50" or less). So knocking off a half a star for these nitpicks, 'The Devil Wears Prada' offers quite close to reference quality video.
Getting the red carpet treatment, Fox has granted 'The Devil Wears Prada' with a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 surround track, plus Dolby Digital 5.1 options in French and Spanish only. Even if you can only extract the tracks 1.5mbps DTS core (without full DTS-HD decoding) it is a strong mix, aided no doubt by the film's "perky" sound design.
Since this is essentially a a romantic comedy, don't expect lots of sonic bling. Still, there are enough lively outdoor and party scenes and recent pop hits on the soundtrack (Madonna, etc.) to keep the festivities upbeat. The surrounds spark considerably during these sequences, with nice pans between channels and a pretty effective fullness in the rears. The party scene about midway through the film is a nice example -- discrete sounds of partygoers and atmospheric effects are very distinct and finely rendered. Bass response is also surprisingly poppy on the tunes, and sometimes the low end burst forth out of the track with enough heft that it startled me.
Unfortunately, dialogue reproduction is the one area lacking in the mix. Perhaps it is just Meryl Streep's delivery, but her dialogue is sometimes spoken (or mumbled) at such a low level that it gets lost. I had to tweak the volume a couple of times and rewind to comprehend all of her lines. Otherwise, the rest of the soundtrack is very strong and serves the material perfectly. Another fine job from Fox.
'The Devil Wears Prada' is making its debut on Blu-ray day-and-date with the standard-def DVD release, and Fox has ported over almost all of the standard-def extras. Though the suite of five featurettes (running about 30 minutes combined) have been dropped, they were a fairly fluffy concoction anway, so the omission is not devastating. Otherwise, this is a nice little set of goodies.
The highlight is the stuffed 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. Amazing that with so many participants, none of the actors are represented -- and wouldn't a Meryl Streep commentary have been fabulous? Not that Frankel doesn't sing her praises, but the track is largely technical -- which is something of a surprise, given the subject matter. I half-expected some interactive Blu-ray feature that allowed you to highlight each outfit, and find out the designer, label and where to buy. Still, this is a lively enough track given all the participants, and the on-location sequences in particular are full of chatty anecdotes from Frankel, Finerman and Field.
Next up, Fifteen Deleted Scenes run about 21 minutes. The quality is fine in 16:9 widescreen 480p video, but most of the scenes are so short (less than a minute) that they are mostly scene extensions or simply excised lines. More fun is the five-minute Gag Reel, with rare moments of the usually-serious Streep being playful.
'The Devil Wears Prada' was a surprise smash at the box office. And I can see why -- dulling the rougher, acidic edges of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling memoir, it is instead a highly entertaining, Disney-fied wish-fulfillment fantasy. So is this Blu-ray release. The transfer shines, and the soundtrack and extras are highly enjoyable, too. Don't let the "chick flick" tag scare you a way -- 'The Devil Wears Prada' just may be the most fun you'll have on Blu-ray all season.