The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


After the Ball

After the Ball is one-third Cinderella, one-third The Devil Wears Prada, and one third Twelfth Night. If nothing else, you've got to give the filmmakers credit for being creative. The movie is aimed primarily at teenage girls obsessed with fashion and landing a cute boyfriend. While they may well find plenty to enjoy here, anyone outside the target demo is likely to be distracted by how short of the intended mark it falls.

Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) plays Kate Kassell, an aspiring fashion designer. Her father Lee (Chris Noth) runs a successful clothing design company, but she's squeezed out of it by her scheming stepmother Elise (Lauren Holly) and dim-witted stepsisters, Tannis (Natalie Krill) and Simone (Anna Hopkins). They steal some of her designs, then make it look as though she's betrayed the business by giving information to a competitor (Whose Line Is It Anyway? comedian Colin Mochrie). To get even, Kate poses as a guy, dubs herself Nate, and gets hired under this new identity. Her plan is to set up Elise and the girls, while also making her father see her value as a designer. There is one hitch: now that she's pretending to be a male, it becomes more difficult to continue her flirtation with Daniel (Marc-Andre Grondin), the dreamboat who works in the basement designing glass slipp-- I mean, shoes.

After the Ball is intended to be a lighthearted female empowerment story, and it does have a few selling points. Portia Doubleday is very good in the lead role, displaying some solid comic timing and a flair for physical comedy. She's even halfway believable as a guy. (Let's face it – convincingly playing the opposite sex on screen is almost impossible.) The supporting players are good, as well. Some of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, but the actors infuse them with energy, nonetheless. It's also hard to argue with a movie that presents a young heroine who is smart, resourceful, and competent. Kate is nobody's fool, just someone who needs to learn how to stand up for herself. Watching her do so provides a certain level of entertainment.

You can't help but wish the screenplay by Kate Melville and Jason Sherman wasn't so drippy, though. Even if you can accept the idea that Kate has to pose as a male, the fact that she carries the charade out even when it puts her at a disadvantage is hard to swallow. There are two occasions where, had she taken off the disguise and revealed herself, her problems would have been over. One of them arrives when Lee tells Nate how badly he feels about casting his daughter out. Instead of saying, Hey Dad, it's me! she never lets on that he's talking to his own offspring. The reason the plot doesn't follow common sense is one of pure contrivance: Kate doing the logical thing would have prevented After the Ball from carrying out its credibility-stretching finale that involves bad people getting public comeuppances and a hackneyed bit where Daniel takes Kate to the “Fashion Ball” and she loses a shoe in the process.

The basic truth is that, while by no means terrible, After the Ball pales in comparison to its inspirations. Cinderella is a better romance, The Devil Wears Prada is a better fashion-centric girl-power story, and Twelfth Night is a better tale of someone disguising themselves as the opposite gender. If you're going to attempt to duplicate the success of such works, you've got to be a little sharper than After the Ball ends up being.

( out of four)

After the Ball is unrated but contains some mild language and thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.

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