- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” could have been the perfect movie for these economically troubled times.

Based on the best-selling series of novels by Sophie Kinsella, the film follows the adventures of Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), a Manhattan financial journalist who dispenses advice in the pages of Successful Saving magazine at the same time she’s dodging collection agencies.

“Shopaholic” might have been a cutting commentary on the spendthrift ways of CEOs who were collecting big bonuses right before asking for bailouts.

Sadly, “Shopaholic” isn’t even a very good piece of fluff.

You can’t blame the cast. In her first outing as headliner, the lovely Miss Fisher proves herself a very talented comedic actress. She easily manages to carry off charm and clumsiness at the same time. She says much with just her face, and the looks on it are often priceless, as when she’s rather surprised to be kissed by the man of her dreams. He’s played by Hugh Dancy, a handsome Brit who can convey authority without arrogance as the editor of Successful Saving.

The supporting players are uniformly good: Joan Cusack and John Goodman are Rebecca’s thrifty parents; Fred Armisen is the bottom-line-focused publisher; and John Lithgow is the founder of the magazine empire, which is rather like Conde Nast. Kristin Scott Thomas is pitch-perfect as the editor of the fashion magazine for which Rebecca would really like to work; Leslie Bibb is delicious as Rebecca’s rival in both work and love; and it’s nice to see Julie Hagerty on-screen again, here as Mr. Dancy’s flighty assistant. Even the tiniest roles are filled by stars - such as Lynn Redgrave.

The problem is the script. The “Shopaholic” books were written by Miss Kinsella, a Brit, about a London journalist, but the film is about an American one. Everything seems sanitized here for American audiences, and the result is a film without much character. The switch is puzzling because the books were best-sellers in America, and audiences here had no problem making the London-set “Bridget Jones’s Diary” a hit.

“Shopaholic” the film is always blandly predictable — and we’ve seen some of this before in “The Devil Wears Prada” — though there are at least a few chuckles. (After the editor tells Rebecca to rewrite her piece on APR with a good angle, he watches her on the computer and then asks, “Rebecca, did you just type ‘good angles on APR’ into Google?”)

One can’t even ignore the words and look at the eye candy. It’s hard to imagine why Rebecca goes into such serious debt for such terrible clothes. Patricia Field made “Sex and the City” a fashionista’s dream, but the costume designer here makes Rebecca look like a train wreck.

Real shopaholics should skip this one and save their money for one of those sample sales Rebecca loves so much.

★★

TITLE: “Confessions of a Shopaholic”

RATING: PG (Some mild language and thematic elements)

CREDITS: Directed by P.J. Hogan. Written by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth and Kayla Alpert. Based on the books “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan” by Sophie Kinsella.

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

WEB SITE: shopaholicmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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