The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

New In Town

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Old Worn Out Formula Recycled For “New in Town”

After dramatic turns in such films as Appaloosa, Miss Potter and Cinderella Man and a few voiceover roles, Renee Zellweger returns to comedy as the star of New in Town, an old worn out, recycled fish out of water tale that is way too familiar and predictable for its own good.

Zellweger plays Lucy Hill, a high powered executive at Munck, a food manufacturing company headquartered in Miami, who accepts an assignment to implement production changes (i.e. downsizing, or more realistically, layoffs) in her company’s small town Minnesota plant.  Although the temporary transfer may be a way of fast tracking to V.P., it comes as no surprise that nothing in life comes easy to the ambitious, materialistic woman.  For one thing, Lucy must get used to the freezing cold weather of New Ulm, Minnesota (in reality, filmed on location in Winnipeg, Canada) with its snow covered streets and icy roads that are no place for her fashionable clothes, spike heals and fast cars.  Making the best out of a bad situation also means dealing with quirky townsfolk, their small town values and connecting with Ted Mitchell, a hunky union rep/fireman (a bearded, appealing and natural Harry Connick, Jr.) and widower with a daughter just entering her teens.  Although a verbal dispute between Lucy and Ted at their first meeting results in a mutual dislike for each other, things soon change after Ted rescues her from her crashed snow banked car. It doesn‘t take much smarts to know that their relationship is headed in a romantic direction.

The colorful supporting cast employing the strongest Swedish influenced Minnesota accents and dialogue laced with “you betchas” since Fargo, includes Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Baby Momma) a stand out as Blanche Gunderson, Lucy’s secretary at the plant and matchmaker whose manner is both lovable and funny, and J.K. Simmons (Juno) as Stu, the gruff plant foreman who resents Lucy’s intrusion and her big city ways.

Of course, what initially starts as an opportunity for Lucy to climb the corporate latter eventually turns into a transformational life experience.  As in countless other films based on the same overused premise, it takes transcending obstacles and enduring a conflict or two before the lead character has an epiphany, softens and comes to realize what values most in life. Along the way, brainstormed by Blanche’s secret recipe for tapioca pudding, Lucy comes up with an idea that will save jobs and keep the plant from closing. But don’t be fooled. This is yet another one of those films that relies on the assumption that it takes a man for a career minded woman to really feel “complete”.

Co-writers Ken Rance and C. Jay Cox (Sweet Home Alabama) try to create laughs with some slapstick, pratfalls, visual and verbal gags and a requisite food fight. A few bits are somewhat amusing, but the least funny scene involves Lucy stuck in an embarrassing predicament out in the woods when she is unable to unzipper a one piece hunting suit in order to pee.

On a positive note, Zellweger has never looked better with a sleek attractive hairdo that frames her face. Thankfully, she refrains from her usual facial scrunching that has become somewhat annoying in recent years. This is not exactly her most demanding, nor believable role, yet Zellweger manages to engage the audience with her charm and flair for comedy, although it is not enough to save the floundering, paint by numbers film. For all its worth, I could see what was coming a mile away and could have written the script myself.

I won’t go so far as to say New in Town is the worst film I have seen in a while. At best, this totally predictable romantic comedy is pure fluff, of the non memorable variety.  It didn’t exactly warm my heart, nor did it leave me as cold as, say, Minnesota weather.