The Nanny Diaries fits into the same category as The Devil Wears Prada. Both feature women who take a plunge into a society that's not prepared for them and, more importantly, they aren't prepared for. In the Devil Wears Prada, the target is fashion. Here, the target is more broad: upper class Manhattanites with no time for their families.
The movie owes even more to The Devil Wears Prada (including a brief snippet that features the main character reading the novel in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge homage) and contains, unfortunately, none of the spark and cutting edge that the former had. Here we have the always beautiful Scarlett Johansson as an Anthropology student named Annie who is uncertain about her future and what she wants to be in the real world. Instead of facing the future, she stumbles upon Mrs. X (played with icy chill by Laura Linney) who mistakes her name Annie as "nanny" and immediately the park seems crowded with Manhattanites who want her services.
Long story short, she gets the job and, like a certain fashionista, discovers she bit off more than she can chew. Along the route, she meets the "Harvard Hottie" (Chris Evans) and the lecherous and incredibly creepy Mr. X (played by Paul Giamatti in a role very unlike his others) and learns about love, life and the importance of "following your dreams"(tm).
While the story is humorous in parts and I really enjoyed the framing as an anthropology experiment where it's Annie looking from the outside in and learning about this absolutely foreign culture, it suffers from pacing problems. The beginning was amusing and fun and so was the ending. How they got there, though, was not worth the time. Director Shari Springer Berman worked magic in her adaptation of American Splendor (also featuring Paul Giamatti), but none of that spark is found here.
I will say it has a great cast. Paul Giamatti is terrific as is Laura Linney, who I've always enjoyed. Even Chris Evans who has come a long way from his roots in Not Another Teen Movie is enjoyable. This strong cast led by the always pretty Scarlett Johansson really helps the movie and carry the film. Unfortunately, their parts don't truly resonate the way they should. I think this is what separates this movie from The Devil Wears Prada. Whereas the characters in Prada felt real and carried a spark, here they merely feel like caricatures.
There's some really cute and good scenes, but overall it's too little too late, especially when faced with the tremendously better The Devil Wears Prada of last year. I'd recommend waiting for a renter.
Cute, for what it is.