Saturday, January 17, 2009

New in Town

Today I saw New in Town, starring Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr.

In every fish-out-of-water comedy there is a level of formulaic predictability, but in this film, that formula shoots right off the charts.

Lucy (Zellweger) is a single Miami executive sent to small-town Minnesota to assess the productivity of a plant making snack bars. Ted (Connick Jr.) is a widowed, single father who happens to be the union representative at said plant.

Can you guess what happens from there? I sure could—and I was unfortunately right on every count.

There are the obligatory "Oh my gosh, it's cold in the Midwest" and "look at the simple locals drinking beer at the nearby tavern" scenes, and just for good measure there are also ladies scrapbooking (instead of the usual quilting). Plus, everyone but the two leads have an annoying, exaggerated Minnesota accent, probably to remind us: they're in Minnesota!

Lucy is clearly more educated than anyone in the town (and the only one who dresses in the current decade); Ted is the obvious workers' hero who all of the women swoon for (yes, Connick remains sexy despite the blue-collar-beard and tired flannel).

Their meet-cute comes in the form of a dinner party hosted by Lucy's "executive assistant" Blanche (Siobhan Fallon), and results in Lucy and Ted immediately hating each other through Blatant Sexual Tension.

Lucy soon becomes a damsel in distress, Ted comes to her rescue and the plot continues from there (or doesn't, if you've seen any formulaic romantic comedies in the past 25 years).

The shame of it is that Zellweger and Connick are great actors and actually have a refreshing chemistry together. They sort of "fit" in a way, and that connection could have been put to such good use in a movie with a better screenplay.

One scene that showed potential has the two on Ted's couch after his teenage daughter leaves for a dance and the characters talk to one another as real people would. It's a romantic scene with both leads exhibiting more depth than they do anywhere else in the movie.

Sadly, it was the only one of its kind.


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