Fashion worlds shallow, mean and interesting

The Big Movie: 'The Devil Wears Prada' (PG-13)

Based on the best-selling autobiographical novel by Lauren Weisberger, 'The Devil Wears Prada' could alternately be titled 'The 'Princess Diaries' Chick Gets a Job.' It's Chick Lit Lite all the way down to the tips of its Manolo Blahniks.

Instead of a teen princess, this time Anne Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, an earnest young would-be journalist in her first post-college job. Unable to get work at a more intellectually oriented publication, she's been placed by a temp agency at the Vogue-like fashion magazine Runway as an assistant-to-the-assistant of the mag's legendarily witchy editor, Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep).

It's only Hathaway's immense charm that allows us to buy this movie star-beautiful actress as a fish out of water. She receives jabs about her weight (she's a size 6 - quelle horreur!) and gets help, à la 'Princess Diaries,' from a gay art director (Stanley Tucci) in the hair-makeup-couture department. As Andy adapts to the demands of her new job, her college pals accuse her of selling out, while a trip to Paris puts her in close contact with a famous - and dead sexy - writer (Simon Baker).

It's a likable film, directed in a breezy 'Sex and the City' manner, about pleasantly dim people who worship at the altar of fashion. In fact, director David Frankel directed several episodes of 'Sex and the City' as well as the pilot episode of HBO's 'Entourage,' and it shows - the film, while agreeable, is lit and paced like a made-for-cable TV show.

Streep, who's verging on her third decade in films, is marvelous in the sort of role we've all been aching to see her play for years. With a Cruella De Vil dye job and psychic armor 3 inches thick, Miranda is more ice queen than queen bitch - but she knows the extent of her power and encourages her minions to quake in her presence.

Late in the film, after hearing that yet another husband has filed for divorce, a makeup-free Miranda allows underling Andy to see the chinks in her armor - but only briefly, just a bit, and then it's back to issuing orders. It's a lovely little piece of acting by Streep, who wears her casual superiority so flawlessly one can't help but wonder how much of it may come from real life.

As clever and charming as the film may be - Tucci, Streep, Hathaway and Emily Blunt, as Andy's ambitious fellow assistant, are all given juicy, funny dialogue - there's something unpleasant about the film's basic message. Apparently, working hard at a job you don't adore in order to further your career is a bad thing. When Andy's boyfriend throws a hissy fit because she missed his birthday party, we're supposed to believe her priorities are out of whack. But really, shouldn't he just suck it up, be supportive and act like an adult?

As counterprogramming for the big 'Superman Returns' weekend, 'The Devil Wears Prada' is like that perfect couture sundress - feather light, amusing and just the sort of thing for a warm summer evening. Just don't expect anything deeply intellectual from the experience.

- Dawn Taylor

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