Producer Jerry Bruckheimer doesn’t necessarily possess keen insight into the female psyche, but he’s a genius at pandering to the fantasies of a mass audience. Just as Bruckheimer’s Coyote Ugly delivered a hilariously transparent empowerment-through-skankiness message, his latest wad of cinematic cotton candy, Confessions Of A Shopaholic, allows audiences to vicariously experience the guilty thrill of indiscriminate spending, though they then get smacked with a timely but hypocritical message about the necessity of living within your means. And if there’s one thing Bruckheimer stands for, it’s thriftiness and financial self-discipline.
The delightful Isla Fisher stars as a credit-card-addled, ditzy young writer who dreams of working at a Vogue-like fashion institution, but settles for an entry-level position at a struggling business magazine after handsome editor Hugh Dancy mistakes her facile observations about shopping for profound financial wisdom. Fisher rockets to national prominence when a piece about the metaphorical connotations of a green scarf captures the public’s imagination. Can Fisher tame her addiction to shopahol and win Dancy’s heart? Will her sordid past as a shameless shopper taint her reputation as a financial guru?
The degree to which Shopaholic actually works is a testament to the looks, charm, and comedic chops of Fisher, who stole Wedding Crashers and has a gift for slapstick that places her somewhere between Téa Leoni and Lucille Ball in the pantheon of foxy redheaded physical comediennes. Fisher maintains a daft, blinkered innocence while being run through a gauntlet of contrived sitcom scenarios, like a scene where she tears her outfit at a fancy ball, is mistaken for a waitress, and faces the humiliation of serving food to her peers and people she’s dying to impress. The film gets a fizzy ebullience from Fisher and a ridiculously overqualified supporting cast, including John Goodman, Joan Cusack, John Lithgow, Lynn Redgrave, Fred Armisen, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Julie Hagerty. But at 112 minutes, the film overstays its welcome, and its attempts to eke pathos out of this superficial silliness are more laughable than any of its gags. Fisher makes for a winning Cinderella, but by its third act, this hokey, old-fashioned vehicle turns back into a pumpkin.