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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Movies: The Big Tease, The Devil Wears Prada

You may have noticed that I have abandoned the old "The Better To See You With" titles. This is for two reasons. First, it stopped being clever some time ago, and, second, I thought it might be more useful for the archives if the movies were named in the title. As more and more people are beginning to look at this blog, it occurred to me that some might like to look through older entries. I may go back and change some of the old titles, but . . . probably not.

I saw two movies on DVD recently. One was much better than I expected and the other not nearly as good as I'd have hoped.

Starting with the bad news:

The Big Tease (1999)

The plot: A flamboyant Scottish hairdresser travels to Los Angeles to compete in an international hairdressing competition.

This movie has been widely-hailed for some time, but I just never got around to seeing it. I’m a fan of Craig Ferguson’s late-night talk show; he’s spontaneous and witty, and I believe he was grossly under-utilized on “The Drew Carey Show.”
That having been said, this movie is poorly done.
First, the film uses the "mockumentary" style of This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman, but not very well. In fact, just about 45 minutes in the “documentary” premise is almost completely abandoned. Just how poorly this convention is executed, demonstrates the true genius of a director like Christopher Guest. He obviously made it look easy, so The Big Tease director decided to give it a try – perhaps out of pure laziness. Not good.
Frankly, neither is Ferguson, which is disappointing. He just never seems very comfortable in the role of Crawford MacKenzie, the gay hairstylist. In fact, some of Ferguson’s better moments seem to be when he just starts goofing around and slips out of character. Unfortunately this makes for a very uneven portrayal.
There’s just not much redeeming value to this movie, so, if you like Craig Ferguson, go rent Saving Grace or I'll Be There. The Big Tease is basically a messy waste of time.
And "you're welcome" for not making any bad puns about the title.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The plot: A young, "regular girl" and aspiring journalist is a fish out of water when she accepts a position at a high-powered fashion magazine featuring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep.

There was no way I was going to see this movie in the theater. I really didn't see myself renting the DVD, either. As much as I like Anne Hathaway (which is a lot), I feared that this movie would be like two other Meryl Streep comedies that I had seen: She-Devil, a very bad adaptation of a pretty good British novel, and Death Becomes Her, a special-effects driven shambles of a film.
If not for a friend of mine who was such a fan of both the book and the film that she immediately bought the DVD upon release and had it sitting on top of her T.V. when I was visiting, I might never have learned just how wrong my assumptions had been. This film is very smart and very funny as it both reveres and skewers the world of high fashion in much the same vein as "Ugly Betty." (Yes, I watch that show. Shut up.)
Meryl Streep is brilliant, of course. (Naturally she was also the high point of the aforementioned debacles.) Anne Hathaway gives a very solid performance as the intrepid lead, redeeming herself in my eyes for the disappointing Brokeback Mountain.
The Devil Wears Prada was a very pleasant surprise.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune runs through March 10th at The Phoenix.

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