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New in Town Movie Review

- 7 February 2009, 09:02

Townfoolery
by Betty Jo Tucker

How did Lucy Hill become a top-level business executive? As portrayed by Renée Zellweger in New in Town, this ambitious Miami resident is so clueless she doesn’t even know it gets very, very cold in Minnesota during the winter. After volunteering to oversee the downsizing of a plant in a small Minnesota town, Lucy takes lots of baggage with her — but wears the flimsiest of jackets when she gets off the plane. And that’s just the beginning of her mistakes. As soon as she arrives, she treats the townspeople who work for her like they were dirt. Did Lucy miss the company’s human relations training?

I’ve admired Renee Zellweger’s work in films like Cold Mountain, Down with Love, Leatherheads and Bridget Jones’s Diary, but her portrayal of Lucy Hill in this fish-out-of-water comedy disappoints me. Still, perhaps I should blame the script instead of the actress. Her character seems so doggone unbelievable! Lucy changes from cold and stupid to warm and smart practically overnight. She wears the highest heels imaginable, goes through too many supposedly funny (not!) scenes such as trouble urinating while on a hunting jaunt and getting drunk after her car plows into a snow bank. Would Meryl Streep or Angelina Jolie or Kate Winslet do any better acting when faced with such drivel? Probably not.

Mostly because of a lead character like Lucy, it’s not easy to warm up to this unpleasant romcom. Co-star Harry Connick Jr. (Bug) manages to amp up the temperature a bit, but it’s not enough to save New in Town. Connick plays the union representative who falls for the boss lady. Unfortunately, the chemistry between this mismatched couple fails to ignite the screen, and their attempts at humorous dialogue fall as flat as most of my baking experiments.

Another serious problem with New in Town involves the exaggerated Fargo-like accents adopted by supporting cast members. This is a movie crying out for sub-titles! Even the amazing J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading), who portrays the plant foreman, is hard to understand.  However, Siobhan Fallon (Baby Mama) stands out in her secretarial/tapioca-maker role. Her expressive face telegraphs much more than her words, especially when she displays enthusiasm for creating scrapbooks.

New in Town had the potential to be a comedy about an important issue during troubled economic times. Instead, it ends up as a failed lampoon of women executives and small town culture.

But to close on a positive note – the movie’s snow scenes look very real. Brrr.

(Released by Lionsgate and rated “PG” for language and some suggestive material.)

For more information about this movie, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

Betty Jo Tucker is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS). She  teaches an online class, “The Reel Deal: Writing about Movies” for the LSS School of Writing and has published three movie-related books including CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, an amusing memoir about her life at the movies. Betty Jo serves as the editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews and hosts a weekly radio show, “Movie Addict Headquarters,” for BlogTalkRadio. She also writes monthly film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon.  For more information, please go to www.BettyJoTucker.com ..


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