New in Town
dir Jonas Elmer
scr Kenneth Rance, C Jay Cox
with Renée Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, JK Simmons, Frances Conroy, Ferron Guerreiro, Mike O'Brien, Barbara James Smith, James Durham , Nancy Drake, Wayne Nicklas, Dan Augusta
release US 30.Jan09, UK 27.Feb.09
09/US Lionsgate 1h37
New in Town
You betcha: Zellweger and Hogan

connick simmons conroy
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
New in Town Bright and engaging, this film is just a bit of watchable fluff without a single moment of originality. The plot is by-the-numbers predictable, but the characters sometimes surprise us with astutely funny dialog.

Lucy (Zellweger) is a high-powered Miami executive assigned to oversee the downsizing of a plant in New Ulm, Minnesota, population 13,000. Of course, it's the dead of winter there, but Lucy's surprise at the icy weather is nothing compared to the culture shock when she meets her tapioca-making assistant (Hogan), beer-swilling plant manager (Simmons) or opinionated union rep (Connick). Also of course, these rural bumpkins aren't nearly as stupid as Lucy thinks they are. And she's not nearly as ignorant as they think she is. Could there possibly be a way to save the plant?

From the belaboured set-up to the cliche-ridden conclusion, the plot never rings remotely true. We can actually hear the gears churning through each requisite narrative milestone, accompanied by loud clunks as corny contrivances push characters together or apart on cue and set up the big final resolution. It's neither clever nor subtle, and it never tells us anything we haven't already heard in untold fish-out-of-water romantic comedies before it.

And yet, there's something here that still manages to grab our attention. It's certainly not the odd casting of the pinched Zellweger and beardy Connick as romantic foils, although perhaps it has something to do with their utter unsuitability as romantic leads. Much more interesting is the character played by Hogan, who actually introduces some depth to the film through her observant dialog, which touches on issues of community, friendship and religion in a way that's far more effective than Elmer's obvious directing choices.

And besides the thin plot, the direction is the main problem here: Elmer falls back on extremely corny slapstick and cheap gags (a smart executive would surely check the weather report before flying anywhere), shoehorning in a random makeover sequence and a Christmas carolling night straight out of Whoville. And perhaps the most annoying thing is that, even though the film is utterly formulaic, it kind of works.

cert 12 themes, language 24.Feb.09

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... New in Town Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall