New in Town
Rated PG; Directed by Jonas Elmer; Starring Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick, Jr., Siobhan Fallon, J.K. Simmons
Sometimes a romantic comedy comes along and will surprise me. A new take on love and relationships or a clever concept can make a film a delight. These are rare as most romantic comedies are overly predictable and only the charm of the cast puts the plot over. New in Town is neither surprising nor the cast charming. The few laughs are forced and it all becomes one big sickly mess.
The plot relies on that common plot device: a fish out of water. In this case, it’s Lucy Hill (Renee Zellwegger), an ambitious executive living in Miami who volunteers to organize the layoffs at a food processing plant in Minnesota. There she meets a host of cloyingly sweet characters, including the local union representative, Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick, Jr.). Ah, management vs. the union, how can these two not fall in love? In the usual silly plot developments of this movie, they somehow do, though you will wonder where the chemistry is between these two.
Both Zellwegger and Connick, Jr. are not served well by the script, and director Jonas Elmer does little to shiny up the tarnished plot. Even reliable supporting actors Siobhan Fallon as Lucy’s secretary and J.K. Simmons as a plant manager have little chance to shine. It certainly doesn’t help when the character of Lucy comes across as ridiculous, and on top of that, she’s just plain stupid. Try to imagine a smart business woman who travels from Miami (think “warm”) to Minnesota in the winter (think “not warm”). Would you understand that there is a need to dress warmly? Lucy also is irritatingly inappropriate as she goes about learning more about the food processing plant and the people who work there.
This all could have made an okay romance. The set up could have even made a decent comedy. Yet we have to deal with that horrid plot device of the selfish person learning important life lessons. This is so dangerous in movies. When handled well it can bring tears and laughter to an audience. Done badly, it’s an eye-rolling, “is this movie over yet?” experience. The townsfolk — yeah, they’re “folks” – are sweet, goodhearted, simple people who really understand what life is about. Yeesh, diabetics stay away from all this sickly sweetness.
Of course, you know everything will turn out all right, and sure enough, we finally get to that happy ending. The Scrooge-like business woman learns what really matters in her life, romance blooms, and the townsfolk all pull together to save the day. New in Town is only for those desperate for a romantic-comedy fix. For those of you who need more than a stale plot, and have cut back on your sugar intake, rent something else.