The Devil Wears Prada

Starring Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Stanley Tucci. Rated PG. Opens Friday, June 30, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas

To play the larger-than-life Miranda of Lauren Weisberger's hit book The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep could have easily camped it up like the demon spawn of Cruella De Vil and Leona Helmsley. But to her credit, the old pro took an understated route. This is not an impersonation of Anna “Nuclear”  Wintour, the Vogue editor whom the character is based on, either. Streep creates her own odious prima donna, adopting the hushed, weary tone of a woman too busy to be bothered with the idiot antics of the minions who scurry around her; she rarely has to do more than purse her lips to beat down her underlings.

Streep's smart approach speaks to the overall success of David Frankel's film. It has more soul and dimension than Weisberger's chick-lit hit. That's not to say The Devil is deep””this is about the fickle world of high fashion, after all””but the strong ensemble and tight pacing make it click along like a Paris ramp show.

When we first meet gawkily unfashionable Andy (Anne Hathaway), she has neatly packaged up her earnest college-paper clippings and is applying for a job as Miranda's assistant at Runway magazine. Her first morning of work isn't over and she's already asked for the spelling of Gabbana, screwed up her latte delivery, and taken a severe ribbing about her cable-knit sweater and sensible shoes. (“Are we doing a before-and-after pictorial that I don't know about?”  Stanley Tucci's Nigel sneers.) Soon though, she's strapping on the Manolos and becoming a media player. Still, this is not a Cinderella story: when her friends start to disappear and she starts to see the weaknesses beneath Miranda's Teflon coating, Andy begins to ask the question every young woman must face: Who do I want to be?

Hathaway has a coltish charm, but the bit parts are just as crucial. Tucci's Nigel slides off some killer sarcasm, and as Andy's terrorized Brit coworker, Emily, Emily Brunt is hysterically huffy.

Director Frankel (of TV's Entourage and Sex and the City) gives the New York settings the gleam of those old Doris Day flicks where the naive gal takes on the big city. What makes it so much more, though, is its insights of a society seduced by both celebrity and career status: Andy is constantly told “a million girls would kill for that job,”  and it's not an understatement.

That, and the film's clothes are to die for.