TV on Blu-ray Review: Beauty & the Briefcase (2010)

Now Available to Own

Early on, ABC Family was often dismissed by channel surfers as a mere a sister station to Disney's more successful network, most likely because even though they offered their own tween friendly original movies, ABC still drew from the same playbook and talent pool made famous by the House of Mouse. However, over the past few years ABC Family has grown out of its awkward adolescence by truly embracing their new mission and slogan to celebrate “a new kind of family.”

Thanks to a string of successful series like Greek and some wildly popular made-for-cable movies like three Cutting Edge sequels as well as ABC Family's plethora of good-natured fluff broadcast during their annual 25 Days of Christmas lineup, the station has become a whip-smart and welcome entertainment destination for female viewers long-tired of being TV's most routinely neglected audience demographic.

While a multitude of the content offers cross-generational appeal with a sort of post-Nickelodeon and pre-Lifetime focus, overall it does skewer towards young women caught between a rock and a hard place for TV programming.

And with such a vastly diverse viewership, it's completely understandable why some of the network's romantic comedies struggle in their execution, offering audiences a sanitized fairy tale treatment of mature subjects involving love, sex and the glass ceiling women face in the workplace a la Beauty & the Briefcase.

Directed by 10 Things I Hate About You helmer Gil Junger, Beauty, which was based on Daniella Brodsky's novel Diary of a Working Girl, is traditional chick lit fare in the vein of Never Been Kissed and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with its tale of an unlucky-in-love young scribe going undercover for a journalistic exposé she hopes will lead to her first big professional break.

Given the assignment to romantically infiltrate the male dominated world of high-powered business where the magazine editor of Cosmopolitan (Jaime Pressly) assumes all of New York's eligible single men are hiding, Lane Daniels (Hilary Duff) fast-talks, flirts and tricks her way into a position she can barely understand with the mission to date and share her adventures on the “Business of Love.”

Although Duff is likable, given the out-of-place tween-speak and watered-down Sex and the City like sitcom discussions about men and fashion penned by screenwriter Michael Horowitz, she seems a bit young for the role, despite the fact that Beauty was executive-produced by the leading lady.

Lightweight fluff that's ideal for sick days or rainy weekends when you're in the mood for a predictable flick, Duff's Beauty is certain not to tax the old thinking cap by leaning heavily on the structure of previous rom-coms about women and men who "meet-cute" under false pretenses.

Obviously, the set-up is familiar and it's been done much better before in 10 Days and especially in the superlative Never Been Kissed. Nevertheless, the entertaining trifle Beauty does its best to stack the deck in its favor by seeking inspiration in another “blonde girl in a man's world” rom-com.

Namely, even though Lane is smart and quick-witted, the former blogger and fashionista is way out of her league when it comes to corporate affairs. Therefore, it's safe to say that Lane Daniels would've had a surefire BFF in Legally Blonde's Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon. And sure enough, Duff's Beauty opts for Blonde highlights from time-to-time, even going so far as to bring the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge aboard for a bathroom-break-and-you've-missed-it size cameo.

As a romance, Beauty falters slightly by relying too much on the sizzle elsewhere with the “decoy guy” and failing to ramp up the sexual tension between Lane and the man it takes her an hour and a half to realize is the one she really loves.

But pushing aside the clunky title and shortcomings, Beauty is another amusing bright ABC Family crafted smile-inducing high definition confection that's as agreeable as a pop song you know by heart before it finishes playing and one that sounds even better in an impressive (if understated) Blu-ray transfer.

More than just the TV version of Disney Channel's big sister that the Hannah Montana set shouldn't be watching, ABC Family is out to steal away Lifetime viewers as well, that -- particularly in this economy -- are incredibly willing to ditch the Lifetime TV movie tissue box prerequisite by trading in sad movie-of-the-week tears for harmless feel-good laughs.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.