Some films are just really annoying to write about, because there's nothing to them but a script. And it seems like all anybody's concerned about is staying out of the way. So there's no interesting camerawork, or editing, or anything that's not completely, unexceptionably servicable. It's entirely professional and homogenized.

The Devil Wears Prada was directed by David Frankel, a Sex and the City veteran, and that experience has surely served him well here, because the only task he really has to perform is make sure that trendy clothing looks lovely. Everything else was essentially done once the script (by Aline Brosh McKenna) was cast with actors entirely too good for it.

The story is barbarically manipulative: Andrea "Andy" Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is a recent Northwestern journalism grad who finds herself at the bottom of the food chain, and takes as her best option a job assisting the editor of Runway magazine. She starts out disdaining the shallowness of the fashionistas around her, slowly falls in love with nice clothing, allows her job to eradicate any trace of her social life, realizes that she is turning into a superficial monster like everyone she hates, and throws that whole world away to return to her schlumpy boyfriend, thus signifying to us the audience that she realizes that people are more important than things.

In its third act, the script decides that the audience knows nothing at all, and so all of this conflict is largely literalized and spoon-fed, and it's aggravating. But that's to be expected from a Hollywood comedy, and there's enough that goes right that it's possible to whip up a sort of dim enthusiasm for the proceedings, especially with such box-office competition as Click and The Lake House. A lot of the early scenes are fairly nasty in their satiric aim, underscoring the obscene absurdity of an industry that considers a size-6 woman to be a fatty, or views fashions designers as the great artists of the 20th century. One great scene involves Andy being sternly told how no person can be untouched by the tendrils of the great designers, and it's impossible to miss the solipsistic navel gazing of all the yes-man sagely agreeing with this idea. By the end, this give way to fashion porn; as Andy falls in love with her lifestyle, the director seems to as well, and things run off the rails, but there's enough good in the first forty-five minutes that the film rather surprisingly comes across as the first compltely worthwhile comedy of 2006.

The cast saves the film, predictably: this is the sort of film that has actors acting, and not a damn thing else, and the actors are mostly pretty good. Anne Hathaway is one of the rare actresses who comes across as friendly and appealing without having to work for it, and it serves her well here. We buy into her character's idealism at the start, and by the time she turns to the dark side, it's too late to renounce her (and that damn smile). Emily Blunt, as the first assistant who bosses Andy around, shows desperation and neediness well enough to come across like a refugee from Absolutely Fabulous (the series that I constantly wanted this show to turn into). Stanley Tucci is, as always, perfectly fine as a gay man whose life is the creation of art (he's also the only sympathetic figure on the "inside," and for that I give full credit to the actor, not the writing).

All of whom are nothing next to Meryl Streep.

She's one of the great actresses of all time, of course. But here she plays something I've never seen before: a cartoon character. Miranda Priestly, the editor of Runway, gatekeeper of all fashion and the Devil of the title, is a pure stereotype. And what Streep does with that stereotype is magisterial. She speaks in a soft whisper, knowing that everyone is already paying attention to her. She moves slowly and fluidly, belonging completely in every space she occupies. There is no sense that she is a selfish person or a greedy one: the world is arranged such that Miranda Priestly is at its center, and she accepts that fact, rather than enforces it. She is the most venal character Streep has ever played, and yet she is not, unlike most film villains, invested in her own evil. It is simply the right order of the world that she should act that way. The complete disregard that Priestly exudes for every human or concept that isn't Fashion is perfect. The role is small, but it is unforgettable. Although I hate to recommend a film for one single performance, in this case, I am compelled to.

That's all.