Lionsgate // 2010 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 2nd, 2011
A Riches to Rags Story
From Prada to Nada (Blu-ray) is being released on the 200th anniversary of the publication of its ostensible source novel, Sense and Sensibility. A lot has changed in those two centuries, but the basic ideas of fleeting wealth, superficiality, and refined taste are as relevant in this age as that one. It's precisely this relevance that From Prada to Nada hopes to capitalize on, providing a bit of an Hispanic twist to Austen's story of class distinction. Sadly, the switch from Austen's subtle irony to the film's broad comedy does no one any favors. The result isn't a bad film so much as a missed opportunity, even if this Blu-ray affords the film a fine presentation.
Gabriel Dominguez is a rich businessman in Los Angeles. He's a single father with two daughters. Nora (Camilla Belle, Push) is the studious, serious daughter, while Mary (Alexa Vega, Repo! The Genetic Opera) is the superficial fashion plate. On his birthday, Gabriel dies of a heart attack. At the funeral a previously unknown son shows up, half-brother to Nora and Mary. Just as fights over inheritance start to surface, the executor reveals that Senor Dominguez was filing for bankruptcy due to some risky behavior before the economic crisis. This forces the girls to move in with their aunt. There they learn what it means to live in reduced circumstances, and both ladies learn what's important in life.
Let's get one thing straight from the outset: the definitive edition of Sense and Sensibility was made in 1995 by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson with an all-star cast that included Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman. It was faithful to Austen's novel, treated the theme seriously, and kept her subtle brand of ironic humor.
From Prada to Nada has none of these things. To be fair, this film is an update attempt in the manner of something like 10 Things I Hate About You. However, unlike that film, From Prada to Nada doesn't take the source's underlying theme seriously, instead substituting a kind "Woe is me, I have to live in East L.A." feeling. Sure the girls learn lessons from their trials and tribulations, but instead of Austen social critique, this film is generally about how the girls transform themselves, not about how their previous life of privilege might have made them into poor members of society. Finally, Austen's subtle sense of humor is out the door in favor of a broader comedy that finds humor in rich girls doing dirty work.
However, From Prada to Nada, taken on its own terms, isn't horrible. The acting from all involved is committed (it's especially nice to see Alexa Vega taking on a different role after her run with Robert Rodriguez), and the film is ably shot in its Los Angeles locations. However, this is really damning with faint praise: Those who go looking for a light confection of comedy with a slightly serious moral at the end might enjoy From Prada to Nada, but it offers little of lasting value. Like the superficial lifestyle it gently condemns, the film is all surface with no depth.
It's hard, however, to find fault with the From Prada to Nada Blu-ray. The AVC-encoded transfer keeps the bubbly nature of the film alive with strong detail and bright colors. This is a film awash in California sun, and the warmth looks good here with no serious compression or other digital artifacts to be found. The DTS-HD surround track is a bit of an overkill for a dialogue driven movie, but when music comes on to the soundtrack the low end opens up a bit. Extras start with three featurettes that cover the film's production and behind the scenes info. We also get some deleted scenes and bloopers, as well as the film's theatrical trailer.
From Prada to Nada is not really a bad film. I'm sure it'll have a long life as filler on cable for decades to come, as its inoffensive, sugary story can't offend anyone. Fans of Austen's novel are going to want to rent this one, if for no other reason than a train-wreck fascination with the horror the film wreaks on a beloved novel. Fans of Alexa Vega and Camille Bella might also want to rent this until these lovely ladies release another film to sate their fan base. Everyone else should probably avoid the film despite the strong Blu-ray presentation.
This film is more nada than Prada: guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes