Little Black Book review by Mike Long

Romantic comedies have been around for decades and have remained relatively the same over the years. Sure, in the last decade (especially since There's Something About Mary became a huge hit) these films have brought in weirder humor and gotten even more fluffier than ever, but that's about it. In short, we've come to expect little more from these films than a few laughs and a fuzzy story. So, when a romantic comedy comes along that has more to offer, it can certain take the viewer by surprise. The quirky Little Black Book is such a film.

Stacy Holt (Brittany Murphy) is a young woman who appears to have it all. She's followed her dream of working in TV by taking a job with the "Kippie Kann Do!" talk show. (Kippie Kann is played by Kathy Bates). There, she is taken under the wing of assistant producer Barb (Holly Hunter) and colleague Ira (Kevin Sussman), who teach her about the workings of the show. She is also dating the handsome and charming Derek (Ron Livingston) and is very content with their relationship.

During an idea meeting for the "Kippie Kann Do!" show, Ira suggest that they explore women who dig into their man's PDA, the modern equivalent of the "little black book". Stacy is intrigued by this idea, and when Derek goes on a business trip, she decides to check out his Palm and discovers some info about his ex-girlfriends. Interested in Derek's past, Stacy begins to research these women, using her position on the TV show as a cover, and opens a Pandora's Box of knowledge.

As noted above, I went into Little Black Book expecting just another chick flick and I was quite surprised by the depth of the film. For starters, while the central premise may be a bit far-fetched, it does have universal appeal, as we've all wondered about the previous relationships that our significant other has had and we can't help but question that they've told us everything that there is to know. Secondly, the characters in the film are very well-developed. In films of this nature, we typically know very little about the characters, but Little Black Book takes the time to explore Stacy's history and we learn a great deal about Derek through his exs. Even these ex-girlfriends become familiar as Stacy gets to know each one of them. Actually, the script by Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell feels a bit overwritten at times as it explores both Stacy's relationship and the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the talk show. (When was the last time that you said a romantic comedy was overwritten?) The film's true saving grace is the plot twist which occurs during the finale, where one of the main characters reveals their true colors. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming, but it came as quite a shock and really made for a nice capper to the movie. This turn of events also adds a serious tone to the film, which I wasn't expecting, and this helps to set it apart from its peers.

Even with these favorable attributes, Little Black Book isn't perfect. My biggest problem with the film, and I know that some of you will disagree with this, is Brittany Murphy. She's an actress who I can take in small doses in leading roles, but she has to carry Little Black Book and I don't think she pulled it off. Besides the fact that it's hard to buy her as someone who aspires to be a serious TV journalist, she never finds a consistent tone in the film and seems to be playing each scene in an entirely different manner. Speaking of inconsistent, the film never seems to decide how it feels about Derek. Once Stacy begins to dig into his past, Stacy's (and the audience's) view on him being the perfect boyfriend should, in theory, change, but Stacy never makes any decisions on this one way or the other, so the audience is left to make up their own minds. The film's attention to detail causes it to drag at times, although director Nick Hurran tries to give the film a plucky sense of energy. At times, Little Black Book is just another romantic-comedy, but it's polished script and interesting cast do just enough to make it worth a look-see.

Little Black Book snoops its way onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. Actually, I have no real complaints about this transfer. The colors look very good and the image has a nice depth. Very minor ringing haloes from edge-enhancement can be seen, but these are quite minor. Strangely, the DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.0 audio track. Granted, this isn't an action film from which we'd expect a great deal of subwoofer action, but it's odd for a recent theatrical release from a major studio to not be in 5.1. Anyway, the audio sounds fine, as the dialogue is sharp and clear, and the stereo and surround effects are more than adequate.

Also odd for a film of this caliber is the lack of extras on the DVD. "Live & On-Air: The Making of Little Black Book" is a 13-minute featurette which offers comments from the cast and crew on the origins of the script and the characters. The segment also focuses on the director and looks at specific scenes. "Be My Guest: Inside Daytime Talk Shows" (11 minutes) gives us an abbreviated overview of how a real talk show is run, complete with comments from the staff at "The Jerry Springer Show" and it also analyzes the reality of the show in Little Black Book.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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