Released in the middle of a summer of over-hyped blockbuster disappointments, "The Devil Wears Prada" was a smash hit because of its absence of either bombast or pretense. Suddenly, though, the film is popping up on Top 10 lists and the Oscar buzz may not be limited to the always deserving Meryl Streep. "Prada" now arrives on DVD on Tuesday (Dec. 12) with expectations, which may be the worst thing to happen to a movie that's in no way offensive, but equally unremarkable.
Rehashing her "Princess Diaries" persona only with a couple less pratfalls, Anne Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, aspiring journalist who gets a gig that millions of young women would allegedly kill for. She's the new assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep channeling Glenn Close channeling Cruella de Vil), legendary editor of a New York fashion magazine. If Andy can make it through a year, she'll be able to get any job she wants, but her boss may be the Devil and she may be making one of those pesky Faustian bargains.
The problem: Miranda may not earn any World's Best Boss mugs, but the film has sufficiently softened the character from Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel so that she comes across as nothing more than merely demanding. It isn't evil of Miranda to expect her coffee done a particular way or to expect Andy not to be contemptuous of her job or to expect any high level of aptitude in a high pressure position. And since Andy only has to overcome minor annoyances on a professional level and no aesthetic disadvantages at all (even though the movie keeps talking about how fat and ugly she is), there's no sense of triumph to any of the half-dozen times the music and photography suggest we're seeing an ugly duckling become a swan.
The softening of the main characters is discussed extensively in the adequate bonus features to the one-disc set. The longest of five featurettes, "The Trip to the Big Screen," finds director David Frankel and writer Aline Brosh McKenna talking about their efforts to avoid lampooning the world of fashion and to make even the worst characters seem vulnerable. Other features look at costume designer Patricia Field, the cameo by designer Valentino Garavani and the film's loving depictions of New York City and the city's glamour industry.
Although "Prada" already felt long at 109 minutes, the DVD is packed with roughly 20 minutes of deleted scenes, mostly extensions of pre-existing scenes and redundant jokes (at least three references to the "millions of girls would kill for it" nature of Andy's job were trimmed). While most of their scenes remained in the final film, the deleted scenes only confirmed my feeling that the entire movie should have been reshaped to focus on the lively fringe characters played by Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt.
A five-minute blooper reel is mostly useless -- though several Hathaway pratfalls landed on the cutting room floor -- except for the pleasure of watching Streep flubbing a few lines.
In a by-the-numbers commentary, Frankel and an additional compliment of technicians describe Streep's tendency to forget her dialogue and show up on set drunk. Oh, I kid. She was a total pro, an inspiration, an indispensable part of the cinema landscape. It would have been more interesting if they'd talked about her all-night partying.
EXTRAS: Featurettes: "Trip to the Big Screen," "NYC and Fashion," "Fashion Visonary Patricia Field," "Getting Valentino"; audio commentary; deleted scenes; gag reel.
New on DVD
DVD Review: 'The Devil Wears Prada'
Meryl Streep is great, but the movie has gone from underrated to overrated in a hurry.
Meryl Streep in 'The Devil Wears Prada'