Everything “New” is Old Again
Here’s the best part of New In Town: You’ve already seen it!
After seeing this most formulaic butchery of the art of cinema, I contacted a number of friends and asked them to write the plot of this movie, based only on what they had seen in the trailers. A sampling of their responses:
My friend Brooke:
“Zellweger looks constipated and tries to not act like Bridget Jones. Harry looks scruffy and tries not to spontaneously burst into song and jazz hands. Hilarity ensues, followed by romantic mix-up which leads to happily ever after. Fin.”
Chesapeake Family publisher Donna Jefferson
“A movie about an ambitious woman trying to make her way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry. To advance she takes a temporary assignment is very cold Minnesota. She wears her perfectly fitted suits and her very high Manolos in very inappropriate places. Whether or not she is good at her job doesn’t seem to be discussed only the inappropriateness and calamities she manages to be a part of. Somehow she meets a handsome guy and continues with the calamities but since it’s a love story I assume all works out in the end.”
My friend Ann Marie:
“City girl shows up in the cold sticks. She’s probably from someplace warm, because she doesn’t know how to drive in the snow and needs help with that. She works for a big corporation and is in the sticks either to (a) be the new manager and shake things up, city-style or (b) fire everybody. She thinks this will be easy, as everyone in the sticks are rubes and not worth her time. But then she meets some hot guy who works at the company who tries to convince her to leave well enough alone. They flirt, he seems to melt her heart, they kiss, then there’s some kind of misunderstanding where he thinks she’s turning around but the bosses at corporate go behind her back and do what she was supposed to do in the first place, so the hot guy is all mad at her, so then she’s forced to prove herself to him to win him back — likely by ice fishing, preferably where she slips and falls on the ice a lot.”
My sister Jamie:
“Renee Zellweger screws up at work and is forced to move to Minnesota. She doesn’t like it and is mean to everyone. Despite her awful behavior, Harry Connick Junior hangs out with her. For no visible reason, they fall in love.”
My friend Allyson:
“RZ takes job in tundra. Pees on self in woods. Falls off porch. Manages to attract only single gruff guy left in town. Allyson wonders if peeing on oneself would work in Adams Morgan. Could use mountain man love.”
Jamie was wrong about Lucy, Renee Zellweger’s character, screwing up at work. She moves to Minnesota to take over the small town of New Ullm’s major source of jobs, a food factory. And Allyson was wrong, as Lucy doesn’t actually pee on herself in the woods; she simply gets stuck in her hunting coveralls and needs Ted Mitchell’s (Harry Connick, Jr.) help to unzip. Ann Marie was wrong because there’s no ice fishing at the end—it comes nearer the middle. And she only falls once, I think. Donna gets extra points for identifying the inappropriate-shoe theme.
Everything else was exactly right. Oh, there are other characters–Siobhan Fallon Hogan plays Blanche Gunderson, Zellweger’s in-town secretary and enough of an over-the-top caricature of a Minnesotan that Fargo looks like a documentary; the usually extraordinary JK Simmons plays factory foreman Stu Kopenhafer; “Six Feet Under’s” Frances Conroy makes a mortgage payment with Trudy Van Uuden. They all have funny accents. They eat funny things and go to church and wear sweaters. Oh, and it’s cold in Minnesota (one actually genuine moment comes when Lucy steps out of the Minneapolis airport into a Twin Cities November while wearing what would be a normal coat and discovers what a stomach-kicking cold awaits. And I can attest that it’s genuine because I’ve done that, only in December.)
Oh, and everyone missed that there was a makeover scene.
There’s a surprising amount of mild cursing, none of which adds anything to anything; the b-word is thrown about, as is the extended form of “S.O.B.” People say “crap” a lot, because that’s funny when you say it with a Minnesota accent. “Ass” makes a few appearances, sometimes followed by “hole.” And when Lucy meets the Minnesota weather for the first time, the sliding door cuts her off right at “mother—.” Lucy and Ted do some kissing, but it’s couch-bound and clothing-on. A shotgun is handled unsafely, to Chaney-esque results. A thong is discussed. There’s an extended, unfunny joke when Lucy gets struck with a case of the “high beams” (because it’s cold in Minnesota HA HA HA HA HA HA). But the real reason you shouldn’t let your kids see this movie is it is laaaaaaame.
I have seen many lame movies. I love lame movies. Ask me how many times I’ve seen Center Stage. I’ve seen Crossroads and I’ve seen From Justin to Kelly. I did my master’s thesis, in part, on Cruel Intentions (I am not kidding. And this is at the University of Chicago.) I have a high tolerance for lame, is what I’m saying. And this movie was 110 minutes of mind-numbing, lobotomizing, eye-rolling dreck. This script never should have been written. It’s not worth the trees that died that provided the paper. It insults the actors—most of whom try to do what they can, but there’s a time when chicken salad just won’t result—it insults the audience because it makes sweeping generalizations they expect you to believe and plot jumps they expect you to accept. Writers C. Jay Cox (who also wrote Sweet Home Alabama) and Ken Rance (who hasn’t written anything else of note and should be stopped before he can strike again) think that all small-town people are the same, when there’s a difference between small-town Minnesota and small-town Oklahoma and small-town Oregon. But to them, all are rubes and all are mockable—right up until the touching moment when they all engage in whatever small-town ritual teaches the main character that There’s Good In Them Thar Hillbillys (in this case, it’s Christmas caroling.)
Genre films are what they are—generic. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad. But New in Town is insulting to women, men, moviegoers, writers that don’t suck, actors, Minnesotans, businesspeople, union members, Floridians, joggers, secretaries, ice fishermen, hunters, beer drinkers, wine drinkers, people who drive pickup trucks, Justin Timberlake, anyone associated in any way, shape or form with this movie, including ticket-takers, concession-stand workers and popcorn-machine makers, popcorn, butter, salt, the film industry as a whole, cows, snow, ice, Christmas and carbon-based life forms.
Previews at a recent showing were Duplicity, in which a thong is shown (what is with all the thongs lately?), Madea Goes to Jail, in which there’s some talk of prostitution, and Adventureland, which refers to what would happen to a young man’s nether regions should he take a semi-nude swim in a pool with a young woman (man, making these reviews family-friendly is getting harder and harder) and the word “douche.”
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine. She last reviewed Bride Wars. She’d really, really like to review a good movie next time.