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Case Number 06218: Small Claims Court

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Little Black Book

Sony // 2004 // 107 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 18th, 2005

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All Rise...

Looks like Judge Patrick Naugle is having a case of the Fridays.

The Charge

Have you ever been tempted to look inside his little black book?

The Case

Brittany Murphy is Stacy, a spunky woman who's just been hired onto "The Kippie Kann Show"—hosted by Kathy Bates (The Waterboy)—a daytime talk show with a sleaze factor of about 9.8. Stacy is living with Derek (Ron Livingston, Office Space), a decent enough guy with a PalmPilot™ (AKA "little black book") that's about to cause some major problems. When Derek goes out of town for a few days, Stacy's abrasive co-worker Barb (Raising Arizona's Holly Hunter, who seems to be slumming it a bit) suggests that she take a peek into Derek's Palm to see if he's hiding any secrets. This seemingly innocent action ends up breaking open a figurative Pandora's Box—Stacy discovers pictures and numbers of past girlfriends and her suspicions suddenly become wildly out-of-control. When Stacy begins setting up meetings with Derek's various ex-girlfriends and her snooping sets sail into treacherous, deceitful waters, Stacy realizes that sometimes ignorance can truly be bliss.

Well now. Here's a rotten little movie that is the equivalent of watching a highly polished Jerry Springer talk show episode without the hicks or trailer trash. Little Black Book would be completely offensive if it weren't so monumentally stupid—it's a movie filled with unlikable characters doing abhorrent things to each other for just under two hours. I'd rather get a root canal with 1976 Black & Decker power drill than sit through Little Black Book again.

I really hated Little Black Book, and not for the reasons you might think. The cast is well assembled and (mostly) likable—Brittany Murphy is cute and bubbly, Kathy Bates is requisitely spunky, and Holly Hunter exudes her normal tough-as-nails demeanor. All of these actresses are top quality Hollywood players that, normally, are a treat to watch. That's not the case in Little Black Book. All of these characters—if we can indeed call them that—are despicable louses that lie, cheat, and backstab each other in the name of comedy and TV ratings.

Look, lying and being mean are two qualities that can be funny in a movie that knows how to use them. In films like Very Bad Things and Bad Santa, you've got characters who do horrible things, but that's the whole concept of the movie: never once do the filmmakers want you to like their characters. On the contrary, Little Black Book wants you to find Brittany Murphy's character adorable, and I just couldn't. When one character, after finding out she lied multiple times, tells Stacy that she's not good enough for Derek, I remember thinking that having Kathy Bates hobble her feet would have been an a more appropriate punishment.

Stacy's deceit is never very funny or amusing—it's just sneaky and underhanded. In fact, the one character who comes off the best is Ron Livingston's amiable Derek—maybe he should have been more forthcoming about his past, but can you blame the guy for being so tight-lipped when his current girlfriend is such a psychotic dingbat intent on digging up a past at any cost, then throwing it in his face?

Little Black Book has all the requisite romantic comedy scenes needed to keep everything in line. Gross out gag in a doctor's office? Check. Wacky, offbeat supporting characters? Check. Main character singing sappy love songs to herself? Double check. In fact, one of the worst ideas in the movie is having Stacy and her mother finding solace in the music of Carly Simon—the idea feels more like a creaky plot device than realistic characterization.

I need more from movies that this. There are those who will think I'm being a whiny nebbish, and I just don't care. It feels as if the writers went out of their way to make these characters as cruel as possible, than as they looked over the precipice did a 180 and asked the audience to empathize with their plight. I don't sympathize with characters that come close to acting like common criminals (or at least Jerry Springer guests), then try for the 11th hour redemption. Everyone in this movie deserves to be unhappy, because that's what his or her actions have accomplished for everyone else.

Little Black Book is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. If nothing else, the transfer for Little Black Book looks excellent. The color schemes, including blues and yellows, are all in great shape. The black levels are dark and well defined. Haloing, dirt, and edge enhancement are all noticeably absent; this is a very fine picture that should please fans. Also included on this disc is a full frame transfer, though it's not recommended.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 in English. Why not 5.1? Who knows…you get 5.0, and that's what you're going to have to live with. Since Little Black Book is a comedy, it's not surprising to find much of this sound mix to be front heavy. That being said, there are some spots where the surround sounds kick in, including during the talk show segments and when that damned song "Let The River Run" starts playing. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Surround mix in French, as well as English and French subtitles.

The extra features on Little Black Book are fairly slim. The only thing viewers get are two short featurettes ("Be My Guest: Inside Daytime Talk Shows" and "Live & On The Air: The Making of Little Black Book") that deal with the making of the film (talking head interviews, behind-the-scenes clips, etc.) and talk shows in general. Both of these are around ten minutes long are insubstantial featurettes. Also included are some previews of other Sony releases.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• French
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Bad
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Two Featurettes
• Previews


• IMDb
• Official Site

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