Lionsgate // 2009 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Tamika Adair (Retired) // June 3rd, 2009
"She's an executive on the move. But her career is taking her a little farther than she expected."
Although New In Town received some scathing reviews, this is not going to be one of them. This is not one of Renée Zellweger's shining moments. However, her nuanced performance remains endearing and effective. I wasn't impressed with the stale romance that ensues between Renée and Harry Connick Jr's characters. Still for director Jonas Elmer's first major feature, he doesn't disappoint much.
Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger, Appaloosa) has only one thing on her mind: fast-tracking her career to CEO status. When her company needs someone to automate and restructure one of their manufacturing plants, she reluctantly volunteers for the task. After finding out that the job calls for her to downgrade her lofty standard of living to rough it with the blue collar locals of the remote town of New Ulm, she begins to bemoan her choice. Her frosty disdain for rural life is met with contempt, especially from the local union representative, Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr., P.S. I Love You). Despite the bitter lifestyle of brutal winters, torrential snow and icy roads, she eventually warms up to the community. After she is forced to close plant and layoff the workers, it's up to her to come up with a fool-proof scheme to save the plant and her job.
I can understand the horrific reviews New In Town received. There's nothing remarkable about it. And it succeeds at nothing. As Elmer's English-language debut, it's overwhelmingly safe. However, despite being as formulaic as a romantic comedy can be, it accomplishes its task at remaining amusing and engaging fairly well.
New in Town begins as a tropical-fish-out-of-water tale and slowly progresses into a tried and true story about misjudging people and unfair stereotypes. While these aren't novel themes to base a story on, they continue to be engrossing nonetheless.
The regional peculiarities that the Coen Brothers envisioned in Fargo are revisited under different circumstances by a different director. Of course, New In Town is not dark at all, but it is funny. Like Fargo, the locals start out as caricatures, but later become so much more. The two standout performances are held by Siobhan Fallon Hogan (Baby Mama) as Blanche Gunderson and J.K. Simmons (Juno) as Stu Kopenhafer.
Blanche is the first to greet Lucy upon her arrival. She epitomizes what Sarah Palin should have been under her pitbull-in-skirt exterior. Happy-go-lucky, down-to-earth and charmingly wholesome, Blanche can't help but get up close and personal with everyone around her. Blanche has some really amusing moments, especially the car scene where she and Lucy ride to Lucy's sublet. Blanche asks Lucy if she's a scrapper. Of course, Lucy doesn't know what that is. She proceeds to tell Lucy that she's into scrapbooking and shows her one of her books that includes pictures of her dead pets. You can't help but laugh after Blanche shows Lucy a picture of her late cat and then says that she's not dead, she's just sleeping. As serious about Jesus as she is about guarding her tapioca pudding recipe, Blanche becomes Lucy's secretary. Overtly annoyed by Blanche's presence, Lucy eventually learns that Blanche is the only friendly face that willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Simmons is hilarious as New Ulm's grumpy factory foreman (you remember him as Juno's offbeat but lovable dad, right?). Like New Ulm, Stu doesn't take kindly to corporate types. He stumps Lucy on her first day at the factory by tricking her into giving the plant Gopher Day off.
Harry Connick Jr. was disappointing as Ted Mitchell, the local union representative. He's not nearly the heartthrob he was ten years ago in Hope Floats and I truly believe Lucy's aversion to Ted. I understand love-hate relationships; sometimes those are the hottest romances. Despite the icy weather, Zellweger's comedic antics (including her ingenious idea of erecting her red lingerie as a flag and life line when she gets her car stuck in the snow) and Ted's heroic efforts, the romance between the two never heats up the screen.
Lucy has some great instances of physical comedy in New In Town. The scene where Lucy is pissed drunk after being rescued from Ted and falls over the wooden railing of her porch is priceless.
Some other random observations I had: Lucy's wardrobe may accentuate her prim and proper stiffness, but her eye for shoes is to die for. Why must Lucy purse her lips like that? She looks like a blowfish. Boy, she is lit horribly. The photography is so claustrophobic and uninspired. Well, rom coms aren't known for their sweeping views.
Outside of the camerawork and lighting, the video transfer is fairly nice. I didn't notice any hiccups in the audio or the score, which is presumably a good thing.
The DVD comes with a fair helping of special features, particularly "The Folk Art of Scrap Booking" and "Pudding's Delicious Role in New In Town." In addition, it comes with some deleted scenes, audio commentary with the cast and crew, and an acceptable making-of featurettes.
Formulaic as can be, New In Town is light fare that succeeds at being as entertaining as it is heartwarming. Although far from perfect, the charmingly funny performances alone are enough to grow on some fans. It's definitely worth renting.
Review content copyright © 2009 Tamika Adair; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site