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From Prada to Nada -- Film Review

The Bottom Line

Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" is translated to East L.A. in this dumbed-down comedy.

Opened:

Jan. 28 (Lionsgate)

Cast:

Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama

Director:

Angel Garcia

As modern updates of classic Jane Austen novels go, From Prada to Nada is no Clueless. Pretty much expending its quotient of wit on its title, this Latin-themed adaptation of Sense and Sensibility features sitcom-style stock characters and situations, not to mention the sort of ethnic stereotypes to be found in TV ads for fast-food Mexican restaurant chains.

Mirroring Austen's basic plotline, the film depicts the travails of rich sisters Nora (Camilla Belle) and Mary (Alexa Vega) after their father dies and leaves them orphaned and penniless. Forced to leave their Beverly Hills mansion and live with their aunt (Adriana Barraza) in her modest East Los Angeles home, they experience severe culture shock as they come to grips with their Mexican heritage.

The more level-headed Nora immediately quits law school and lands a job as an assistant in a law firm. Spoiled, mini-skirt wearing Mary, on the other hand, reacts with horror to her new surroundings. "We're gonna get shot," she cries upon driving into the neighborhood.

Needless to say, love soon enters the picture, with Nora falling for but resisting the romantic overtures of her new boss Edward (Nicholas D'Agosto), the sibling of the shrewish wife (April Bowlby) of the half-brother (Pablo Cruz) the sisters never knew they had. Mary, meanwhile, sets her sights on an apparently wealthy teacher's assistant (Kuno Becker) while ignoring the rough-hewn charms of a macho neighbor (Wilmer Valderrama).

From the opening montage set to, what else, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" to its endless stream of fish-out-of-water jokes, From Prada to Nada doesn't miss a predictable beat. And not since Cheech Marin's Born in East L.A.has a mainstream comedy so gleefully reveled in Hispanic stereotypes.

While the performers do manage to bring some charm to the proceedings, the now very grown-up Vega (Spy Kids) lacks the comic effervescence that Alicia Silverstone brought to her very similar role in Clueless.

Since Austen wasn't a particularly prolific author, one can only hope that Hollywood screenwriters will soon run out of her plots to recycle for lame, audience pandering comedies.

Opened Jan. 28 (Lionsgate)
Production: Oddlot Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Lionsgate, Televisa Hyperion Films
Cast: Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Wilmer Valderrama, Nicholas D'Agosto, April Bowlby, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza
Director: Angel Gracia
Screenwriters: Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro, Craig Fernandez
Producers: Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonough, Rosanna Arau, Gary Gilbert, Lisa Ellzey
Executive producers: William Lischak, Fernando Perez Gavilian M., Deborah Del Prete
Director of photography: Hector Ortega
Production designer: Anthony Rivero Stabley
Editor: Bradley McLaughlin
Costume designer: Naomi Crespo
Music: Heitor Pereira