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Beauty & the Briefcase DVD Review

Beauty & the Briefcase (2010) DVD cover art -- click for larger view and to buy DVD from Amazon.com Beauty & the Briefcase
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Gil Junger / Writers: Michael Horowitz (teleplay), Daniella Brodsky (novel Diary of a Working Girl)

Cast: Hilary Duff (Lane Daniels), Chris Carmack (Liam), Michael McMillian (Tom Reinhart), Amanda Walsh (Joanne), Kevin Kirkpatrick (John), Jennifer Coolidge (Alicia), Matt Dallas (Seth), James McDaniel (Mr. Belmont), Jaime Pressly (Kate White), Brandi Coleman (French Model), Lyle Brocato (Waiter), Alix Angelis (Aspiring Assistant), Carol Sutton (Recruiter), Courtney J. Clark (Margo)

Original Air Date: April 18, 2010 / Running Time: 86 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (High-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
DVD Release Date: February 8, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $27.97
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.97 SRP)

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon.com

If you ever wondered what kind of a woman Lizzie McGuire would grow up to become, Beauty & the Briefcase gives you a good idea. This 2010 ABC Family original movie stars Hilary Duff and she lends her protagonist a number of qualities that make you feel like you're catching up with Lizzie after a few years away.
There may be no animated alter ego, but the interior monologue, insecurities, clumsiness, and charisma remain present. However, we're no longer in junior high; Duff has grown up and, accordingly, her character here orders lady drinks and has sex.

Duff plays Lane Daniels, a young woman finding her way in New York City. Lane has writing ambitions and has wet her feet with some blogging and a couple of articles for a small fashion magazine. Soon, best friend Joanne (Amanda Walsh) uses a connection to get Lane the holy grail of journalistic opportunity: a pitch with the editor of Cosmopolitan. The editor (Jaime Pressly) isn't bowled over by any of Lane's proposed story ideas, but their personal post-interview chat gives birth to a promising assignment, one just absurd enough to sustain an ABC Family Original Movie.

Lane plans to go undercover and infiltrate the business world, the boring place where all the eligible, straight, sharp-dressed single men must be hiding from her. Using a fraudulent résumé, Lane applies for a corporate strategic planning job at investment bank Thompson Fulworth. Thanks to luck, charm, and a short-circuited test computer, Lane gets the position and begins working as the assistant to boringly efficient managing director Tom Reinhart (Michael McMillian).

"Beauty and the Briefcase" stars Hilary Duff as Lane Daniels, a young woman trying to make it in New York City's business world. He may not be part of the working world Lane (Hilary Duff) infiltrates, but dreamy Brit Liam (Chris Carmack) seems just about perfect in every other way.

Learning hand signals and fudging the rest, Lane does an adequate job of fitting in, while bringing some color and style to her cubicle. But she isn't there just for the office work; she's there to date cute guys and write about it. And there is no shortage of suited cute guys at Thompson Fulworth, although the only one Lane really gives a chance to is Seth (Kyle XY himself, Matt Dallas) and he doesn't have a real shot.

The man Lane seriously sets her sights on is not a colleague but a chance bar encounter on whom she accidentally spills her drink (Oh, Lizzie!). His name is Liam (Chris Carmack) and he seems perfect in every way, meeting just about every criterion Lane has long set forth in her regularly-referenced ideal mate checklist. He's got a British accent, a witty personality, an exciting job as a record producer, and a firm body. What he doesn't have is a last name or a spot on the cover art, which suggests that despite his second billing, he may not be the one.

The Cosmo editor forbids the extracurricular relationship, prompting a smitten Lane to falsify some of the names and details in her exposé that is now slated to be a front cover story. Need it be said that her notes get discovered at the workplace, complicating the article and threatening her future? This is basic cable, after all.

Lane's straight-laced boss Tom Reinhart (Michael McMillian) is a big believer in workplace hand signals. In the way of friends, Lane has a French model given no name and Joanne (Amanda Walsh) with whom to play Go Fish with male model torso cards.

Duff, who set the model for 21st century crossover Disney Channel iconicity that Miley Cyrus is slowly letting go of, has seen her star dull in recent years. The highlights of her post-Lizzie acting career have been her involvement
in the two strongly-performing Cheaper by the Dozen ensemble family comedies and a single strong solo showing as the star of 2004's sequel-spawning A Cinderella Story. Beyond them have laid disappointments (Raise Your Voice, Material Girls) and obscure fare that barely played in theaters (War, Inc., What Goes Up).

Beauty & the Briefcase may be as inane as it looks and sounds, but it isn't a bad gig for Duff, offering a visible vehicle in return for her still-familiar name. Unlike Labor Pains, the network's 2009 movie starring Duff's sometime rival Mouse starlet Lindsay Lohan, Beauty was always destined for ABC Family and didn't end up there as a last resort.

That is consistent with the career paths of the contemporary former teen stars; Lohan rose higher and has fallen much further. Duff's success outside of the influential, wide-reaching Lizzie McGuire franchise has been minimal. While neither can be deemed an active musician, Duff flourished more on that front, creating enough pop to sustain a 2008 Best Of album (with three tracks taken from 2003's triple platinum Metamorphosis). She's also a published author, a recent "Community" guest star, and a wife soon celebrating six months of marriage. Furthermore, Duff has several new movie projects in various states of existence, a few of which should see fruition, if not nationwide theatrical release.

Unfortunately for "Kyle XY" star Matt Dallas, the fashion sense indicated by a professional vest is about the only checklist qualification supplied by the sideburned Seth. Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White (Jaime Pressly) means business with the unique investigative assignment she hands Lane.

Duff snags an executive producer credit on Beauty & the Briefcase, which, as you can tell, is less fun to discuss than Aaron Carter's once-feuding ex-girlfriends. Beauty is unmistakably a basic cable TV movie,
one that is primarily aimed at females perhaps just a tad older than the network's core audience (who might appreciate the humorously prominent newsstand posters advertising "10 Things I Hate About You" and "Make It or Break It" like bookends). It could easily play on Lifetime as well, from the few comparably weak original properties I've seen there.

Beauty isn't bad in any kind of bothersome or potential-squandering way. It's just a bit daft and highly frivolous, living up to every dumb twist you foresee and with entertainment value that is passable only by the medium's lax standards. The nicest thing that could be said about Duff, her supporting cast, and director Gil Junger is that they are all as competent as ABC Family requires them to be.

While I've already written at greater length about this movie than perhaps anyone else ever will, there are a few final facts and observations I feel obligated to share. Beauty, whose working title was The Business of Falling in Love, is based on the debut 2000 novel by Daniella Brodsky. She is a New York native, a fact seemingly respected in the astonishing sight of real Manhattan locations on an ABC Family movie budget. There are a number of these throughout, although the end credits make it clear that the bulk of the film was shot in Louisiana, aided by tax credits there.

I can't pretend that I knew about it until a couple of weeks ago, but evidently Beauty & the Briefcase first aired on April 18, 2010. That makes next week's DVD and Blu-ray debut from Image Entertainment strangely unpunctual. Perhaps it was delayed to capitalize upon all the attention gained from the movie's 2011 People Choice Award nomination for Favorite Family TV Movie, an honor it sadly lost to Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Even on standard DVD, Beauty & the Briefcase looks and sounds delightful. The now-standard 1.78:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 feature presentation is free of problems and full of positive traits. The picture is bright, stunningly sharp and expectedly clean. The surround sound mix is unusually lively and envelops you with Danny Lux's fittingly upbeat score. In a nice touch not always afforded Image Entertainment titles, subtitles are provided in English for the hearing-impaired and in Spanish for the English-impaired.

Watch the trailer for Beauty & the Briefcase:

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The only bonus feature offered here is Image's video trailer for the movie (1:06), embedded above. It's not much, but it is significantly better than no extras at all.

The scored main menu runs montage in a pink frame next to the reformatted cover art.

Although there are no inserts, a slipcover repeats everything below, on sturdy cardboard.

Fashionable working girl Lane Daniels (Hilary Duff) retrieves her resignation note before her stiff of a boss (Michael McMillian) can see it.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You'd have to either be a sucker for ABC Family Original Movies or a really big Hilary Duff fan to see anything special in Beauty & the Briefcase. (Those classes must be significant, in light of the movie's respectable 3-digit Amazon sales rank at the moment.) This workplace comedy reminds one of the screwball pictures of yore but is 100% contemporary women's basic cable in execution. As far as TV movies go, this is more harmless and jovial than some and not a far cry from some of the dumber romantic comedies made for theaters today. Since it's designed to be enjoyed with intrusive graphics and loud commercial breaks, you'd be just as well to try catching it on the air if such things are regularly rerun. If you do decide to check it out on DVD, though, at least you get utterly satisfactory picture and sound.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy on Blu-ray / Buy the Book by Daniella Brodsky

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Cable Television Movies: Mean Girls 2 • Labor Pains • 16 Wishes • 12 Men of Christmas • Everything You Want
Confessions of a Shopaholic • When in Rome • Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie • Sex and the City • Maneater • Enchanted
Hilary Duff: Lizzie McGuire Box Set: Volume 1 • Cadet Kelly • Disney Channel Holiday • Radio Disney Party Jams: The Concert
New: Glee: Season 2, Volume 1 • Broadcast News (Criterion Collection) • You Again • Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 • Hot in Cleveland: Season One
Matt Dallas: Kyle XY: Final Season • Kyle XY: The Complete First Season | Kevin Kirkpatrick: Greek: Chapter Three • Greek: Chapter Four
Amanda Walsh: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past | Chris Carmack: Alpha and Omega | Jaime Pressly: I Love You, Man • Rules of Engagement: Season 4
Directed by Gil Junger: 10 Things I Hate About You: V1 • 10 Things I Hate About You | Jennifer Coolidge: Exterminators • A Night at the Roxbury

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Reviewed February 2, 2011.



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