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Monday, February 21, 2011

BEAUTY & THE BRIEFCASE -- DVD review by porfle

First of all--if you like Hilary Duff, you'll probably like the ABC Family original movie BEAUTY & THE BRIEFCASE (2010).  End of review.  And now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about the movie behind its back just for fun.

The story is typical romantic comedy stuff but without the actual "comedy."  Hilary plays Lane, an aspiring writer whose assignment is to find her perfect man in the world of big business.  As she explains in her terminally-giddy voiceover: "I just got hired by Cosmo--the world's greatest magazine--to go undercover and date hot men in suits.  Does it get any better than this?"  I don't read Cosmo, but I'm betting that it does.

Because the interviewer thinks she's "funny"--always a plus in the highly-competitive world of investment banking--Lane blunders her way into one of those magic "George Costanza" jobs where she doesn't actually have to do or know anything.  Tom (Michael McMillian), her easygoing and gullible boss, doesn't seem to notice this because she cleverly disguises her incompetence by behaving like a mentally-challenged sixteen-year-old and ogling guys' butts all day.  For someone who's supposed to be a writer, you get the impression that Lane couldn't research a laundry list without consulting Google.

While this tactic may work for her, I think Hilary Duff may need to start thinking about getting a new schtick now that she has outgrown the Disney Channel.  At this rate she's going to end up playing teachers and moms on other people's teen sitcoms.  She's still bubbly and cute and all, but at her age those qualities start getting kind of obnoxious after awhile.

Anyway, Lane has a ten-point "perfect guy" checklist and nobody in the office is making the grade.  Then she meets Liam (Chris Carmack), an incredibly handsome and charming Brit who seems to be a total eleven, and falls head over heels in love.  Trouble is, he's the wrong type for the article.  So Lane has to falsify it by transposing Liam's awesome qualities into boring co-worker Seth (Matt Dallas) and hoping the Cosmo editor doesn't notice. Meanwhile, Tom accidentally stumbles onto the whole truth and is horrified that there's an undercover Cosmo writer loose in the office.  And just when he was starting to like her, too.

You now have all the information you need to write the rest of the story yourself, since it hits all the expected plot points like a pinball.  This would be okay if only it were funny instead of just busy.  Hilary Duff, who has energy to spare, gamely attempts to radiate some of it into her dull scenes and cheerlead the movie into being more entertaining, but it's a hopeless cause.  The only time I felt like laughing was when Liam first asks her out to dinner and she blurts, "I love you.  I mean, I'd love to."

Amanda Walsh is quirky-flaky as Lane's photog friend, Joanne, who sums up the movie's vibe with the line, "This is like junior high.  I feel like I'm at a sleepover."  As Tom, Michael McMillian adequately conveys a "he's all wrong for her so we know he's really Mr. Right" quality.  I wracked my brain trying to remember where I'd seen Kevin Kirkpatrick, who plays Lane's coworker John, until I looked it up--he was Bryce "The Stalker" on (the crummy) season two of "The Joe Schmo Show."

Her greatness Jennifer Coolidge makes one all-too-brief early appearance as an aging playgirl, and the ever-enchanting Jaime Pressly bestows her regal presence upon the film as Lane's demanding Cosmo editor.  People should be writing entire movies around these two ladies instead of just bit parts.

While BEAUTY & THE BRIEFCASE is mostly sophomoric, it's just "adult" enough at times to make me wonder how it qualifies as a "family" film.  So, you can say "bastards" and talk about kinky recreational sex (with chocolate and feathers), along with various other titillating elements, on ABC Family?  Call me old-fashioned, but how does that work?  Come to think of it, this story would probably work great on Cinemax After Dark with some softcore porn thrown in.  But then it wouldn't be a Hilary Duff movie.  Heck, I respect her for not going that route, or at least not yet.  Maybe she should stick to this kind of stuff after all.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, with English and Spanish subtitles.  The sole bonus feature is a trailer.

I'm not sure who BEAUTY & THE BRIEFCASE was intended for.  Guys (and lesbians) who like to gawk at Hilary Duff in a succession of tight tops and miniskirts, plus girls (and gay guys) who like to ogle hot guys in business suits, are all set.  People who like witty, sophisticated comedy, on the other hand, are out of luck.  As are tweeners looking for characters and situations they can relate to.  It's like "Sex and the Single Girl" meets "Clarissa Explains It All."

Buy it at

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