Boy meets girl, they don't like each other, argue, are forced to work together, boy saves girl, girl starts to admit she kind of likes the guy, circumstances force them apart, and girl comes to the realization he's the one. Insert Renee Zellweger as an eager beaver up and coming corporate type from the sunny state of Florida in place of 'girl'. Insert Harry Connick Jr as a good ol' boy who lives in Stereotypical Small Town, Minnesota in place of 'boy.' And there you have New in Town, a romantic comedy that uses every genre trick in the book to try and get a few laughs.
There's nothing new in New in Town. We've seen this plot play out a million times before in much better films. The only thing New in Town has going for it is the chemistry between Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr, and that's not enough to make New in Town a 'Town' worth visiting.
This is a fish out of water story of Lucy, a big city girl who travels to a tiny Minnesota town to help transition her company's latest acquisition, a food manufacturing plant, into a profitable, well-oiled, well-run plant. Of course, Lucy's proposed changes are met with resistance, the locals take advantage of her big city ways, and the union rep she needs to have on her side (who also happens to be a firefighter and a snowplow driver) turns out to be the guy she insulted on her first night in town. But you know - as I've already laid out in the opening paragraph - how things play out, so let's get down to the nitty gritty on where New in Town goes horribly wrong.
First, every Minnesotan in the film has the IQ of a gerbil. The one exception to the rule is the transplant from a bigger city – Ted – who only wound up in Minnesota after obtaining a higher education elsewhere. From the way they exaggerate the accent (out Fargo'ing Fargo) to the fact the men are all one dimensional hunter/gathers, to the gossipy scrapbooking female Minnesotans, this is one film that seems to have deliberately tried to alienate an entire state.
And secondly, you've got to wonder if screenwriters Kenneth Rance and C. Jay Cox were working off a checklist of clichés. Got the complete opposites as leads? Check. Got the improbable first meeting that establishes their initial antagonism toward one other? Check. How about the typical plot device of forcing the two to play nice in order to get a job done? Check, and double check. The only novel aspect of New in Town was the weather – and jokes about freezing your butt off can only carry a film so far.
Zellweger and Connick Jr are game enough and appear to have tried to make this thing work, but the writing sabotaged their efforts. Plus, I don't think it would have been possible to shoot Zellweger in worse lighting. Once she hits Minnesota (actually, Winnipeg was substituted for the Land of 10,000 Lakes), Zellweger's never presented well onscreen. I don't know if it's the makeup, the lighting, or what, but the end result is very unflattering.
I laughed a total of two times watching New in Town, and they were more polite chuckles than hearty guffaws. I'm not sure putting out a romantic comedy about a big corporation coming in and putting locals out of work during these hard economic times is a smart move. But then I'm not sure there is a good time to send New in Town out in theaters.
New in Town was directed by Jonas Elmer and is rated PG for language and some suggestive material.
Theatrical Release Date: January 30, 2009