Lucy is sent to a small Minnesota town to downsize and restructure the plant that keeps the town alive. While there she falls for a fireman, discovers her heart and saves the entire town. That’s about it.
New in Town doesn’t know what type of movie it wants to be. During part of the film it wants to be a fish-out-of-water tale of a girl who discovers her true self and saves a small industrial town. It also seems to want to be a traditional romantic comedy. At the end of the day it is a confused movie that wants to be Norma Rae meets City Slickers with a little Fargo thrown in for good measure. To put it bluntly, the movie is a mess.
Renée Zellweger is Lucy Hill, an executive for a food company who is relocated to a small town in Minnesota to restructure the manufacturing plant there, downsizing the staff in the process. The jokes are cheap and predictable when she arrives. She packs too much, finds the weather too cold and is dumbstruck by the town’s preoccupation with scrapbooking and Jesus.
Zellweger is fine in her portrayal of the city girl lost in a strange land but it is a role that has been seen too many times before better. Whether it is Mr. Deeds or even Coming to America, the fish-out-of-water concept has a been there, done that feeling and New in Town never attempts to add anything fresh to the proceedings.
Her romantic foil is Ted Mitchell, the local union leader played by Harry Connick Jr. My first exposure to Connick as an actor was in 1995’s Copycat and I am not surprised he has become such a quality performer. While his character is as unoriginal as Zellweger’s, the two have nice chemistry and the scenes they share are fun to watch.
The biggest problem with the film is the script. It doesn’t matter how great the leads are together when the situations they are put into are so predictable and boring. Lucy has a wreck because of a cow in the middle of the road and, unable to get out of her car, gets drunk. Ted shows up and saves her and we get some predictable “drunk acting” by Zellweger. Another scene has Ted taking Lucy on a date, crow hunting, and Lucy accidentally shoots Ted in the butt with buckshot. That hasn’t been funny since Dick Cheney did it.
The direction is also sloppy and shows a complete lack of attention to detail. Jonas Elmer, a Danish television director, shoots some scenes that have continuity errors that I couldn’t overlook. Some were small, but others were just dumb. There is a scene in the film where Lucy is speaking to her secretary Blanche while Ted stands beside her. We cut to an angle where she is looking at Ted with a puzzled look, switch back to a front shot where she is smiling and talking the Blanche and then back to the side shot where she is looking at Ted again, still puzzled. It is distracting as hell. The error should have been fixed in editing but wasn’t and that is just bad technical filmmaking. If this was the only place this happened, it would be one thing, but these things happened throughout.
There are some things to like about the movie. The relationship between Lucy and Ted’s thirteen year old daughter Bobbie was nice as she stepped in to help her in a way only a female figure could. The script has Ted explain that Bobbie’s mother died from heart disease but it was a throwaway line and the movie moves on. That is why the script is so annoying.
Early in the film, Lucy fires the foremen Stu (J.K. Simmons) and following that she finds that every machine in the factory “breaks down.” After that we don’t see the factory for almost twenty minutes. The movie is about Lucy finding herself and doing the right thing by saving the factory but the pacing is atrocious and we don’t see the factory enough to really care.
There are some fun supporting roles from both J.K. Simmons and Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Blanche) but the small town characters are not much more than just voice work and we have already seen that done spectacularly in Fargo. Simmons looks like he is having fun but that is not enough to save this film.
The DVD features a lot of fluff. There is a special feature that looks at scrapbooking and another that talks about tapioca. There is also a making-of featurette that is horrible better because all the cast and crew talk about is how cold it was. I’m serious, it is twenty minutes of looking at the filming and all the interviewees want to talk about is the fact it was cold. There is a commentary track as well with the writer, director, JK Simmons and Siobhan Fallon Hogan. Simmons is very funny and Hogan is very interesting to listen to. There is also a lot of information about why they did specific things including the fact the scrapbooking was added because the writer’s wife was a scrap booker. Also included are 15 minutes worth of deleted scenes.