Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome to Minne-sow-tuh

In New In Town, Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger) is an ambitious, up and coming executive living in Miami. She loves her shoes, she loves her cars and she loves climbing the corporate ladder. When she is offered a temporary assignment - in the middle of nowhere - to restructure a manufacturing plant, she jumps at the opportunity, knowing that a big promotion is close at hand. What begins as a straight forward job assignment becomes a life changing experience as Lucy discovers greater meaning in her life and most unexpectedly, the man of her dreams (Harry Connick, Jr.).

Lucy Hill (Zellweger), an ambitious exec for a Miami-based corporation, accepts, with extreme reluctance, an assignment to restructure a failing food-manufacturing plant in the frigid climes of small-town of New Ulm, Minnesota (actually Winnipeg, Canada). Her worst expectations about the isolated place and its rustic populace are quickly realized as she meets Blanche (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), her irrepressibly perky secretary; Stu (J.K. Simmons), the openly insolent and unimpressed-by-outsiders plant foreman; and Ted (Harry Connick Jr.), the hunky union rep for whom she takes an immediate dislike. Like the odious stepchild of Fargo, New in Town gleefully offers up citizens of rural, snowbound New Ulm, Minnesota as a collection of funny-speaking, Jesus-loving, tapioca-making misfits deserving of nothing less than outright mockery. That one of the lead weirdoes has the gall to climactically criticize transplanted city girl Lucy Hill (Zellweger) for looking down on those very traits exemplifies the cluelessness of Ken Rance and C. Jay Cox's script. A lack of self-awareness, however, is no big surprise considering that the narrative—in which high-heeled Miami exec Lucy is sent to oversee a New Ulm manufacturing plant and (duh) learns that simple folk are okay and that her soulmate happens to be a local rube (Harry Connick Jr.) who loves beer and pickup trucks—offers up city-is-bad, country-is-good blather that was cliché before its leading lady was even born. Watching the charmless, strident Zellweger (shot by Elmer in unflatteringly lit close-ups) smirk, pout, and whine is about as entertaining as wrestling a grizzly bear, though presumably there's someone out there (anyone? Anyone?!?) that finds hilarious the idea of her struggling with a stuck hunting-outfit zipper that's preventing her from going pee.  No wonder President Obama closed Gitmo—for any future torturing, all he has to do is make terror suspects endure New in Town. Even the quote-whore blurb that accompanies the film's latest commercials ("It's Legally Blonde meets Sweet Home Alabama!") doesn't do this rom-com's wretchedness justice, so agonizingly inane is its story and so insulting (to its characters and to the audience's intelligence) is its humor. Yet more than its dim-witted socioeconomic-clash gibberish and a lead performance from Renée Zellweger that induces viewer daydreams about the sweet relief of being deaf, dumb, and blind, the most notable aspect of Jonas Elmer's tale is its admission that Hollywood really, really hates Minnesota. To those anonymous few, enjoy. To the rest, remember: If you choose to swim in sewage, don't complain about coming out feeling like shit. It has a couple funny moments, but nothing that's even remotely rememberable. This only gets a 2 on my "Go See" scale.

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