Great slapstick in a 'Prada' knockoff

"Confessions of a Shopaholic" stars Isla Fisher as the shopping junkie and Hugh Dancy as the editor who hires her to write a frugality column.
"Confessions of a Shopaholic" stars Isla Fisher as the shopping junkie and Hugh Dancy as the editor who hires her to write a frugality column.
Posted: February 13, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic, yet another film that for much of its running time suggests a woman's most enduring relationship is with her designer shoes, is a Prada knockoff. Meaning that this story about a New York professional waiting for her career to take off is a cut-rate version of The Devil Wears Prada.

Not that there's anything wrong with knockoffs, especially in the current financial crisis. Nor is there anything wrong with Isla Fisher as the peppery redhead who abuses credit cards and accessories, and is a dizzy, fizzy, pixilated original.

(You might remember Fisher as the overzealous bridesmaid in The Wedding Crashers. And you might confuse her with that other spirited copperhead, Amy Adams. Here's how to tell them apart: Fisher is the wild-eyed clown; Adams - currently seen as the novice in Doubt - the wistful ingenue.)

The film's recycled nature is most evident in director P.J. Hogan's attempt to marry the farcical hijinks of an I Love Lucy episode to an addiction scenario that would not be out of place in The Lost Weekend.

Fisher's Rebecca Bloomwood is the poster girl for the credit crisis, a New York fashion victim who walks by Fifth Avenue shop windows and hears the siren song of the mannequins, a consumerist chorus that trills, "Buy me," chirps one. "Without me, you're incomplete," sings a second. "If you don't wear me, you won't get that job," carols the third. It's mildly amusing to see the mannequins actually beckon Rebecca, whose affection for pink exceeds that of Elle Woods.

"A man will never love you or treat you as well as a store," insists Rebecca in the film's opening sequence, a paean to the holy cathedrals of couture, where label whores worship.

Rebecca wants absolution for the sins of maxing out her 12 credit cards. She finds it in an unlikely place: Successful Savings magazine, where the gal who aspires to write for a fashion rag gets hired by Prince Charming editor Hugh Dancy. Ducking bill collectors, she writes a column critical of those who overspend in the belief that they are what they buy. Thus Shopaholic is the perfect forked-tongue movie, a condemnation and a celebration of consumerism.

This adaptation of the Sophie Kinsella novels about the ditz addicted to the heroin of high-end merchandise has its moments, almost all of them when Fisher throws herself bodily into physical comedy. Fisher has the slapstick gene that Lucille Ball and Steve Martin and Leslie Nielsen possess: She is unembarrassable, which makes her embraceable. I didn't much like Shopaholic, but, boy, did Fisher make me laugh.


Confessions of a Shopaholic ** (out of four stars)

Directed by P.J. Hogan. With Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow and Kristin Scott Thomas. Distributed by Touchstone Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (mild profanity and thematic elements)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/

blogs/flickgrrl/

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