Warner Bros. // 2004 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Diane Wild (Retired) // September 7th, 2004
Twice the plot, half the entertainment.
To most of us, they're the Olsen Twins, tabloid fodder and jailbait male fantasy. To their tween fan base, Mary-Kate and Ashley are home video stars who churn out reliably suitable entertainment for that age group, as well as books, clothing, perfume, and accessories. New York Minute feels like just another cog in the Olsen marketing machine, positioning them as feature film stars -- the next step in their plot for world domination.
Roxy Ryan (Mary-Kate Olsen) is a sloppy, irresponsible drummer who is cutting school to visit the New York City set of a Simple Plan video shoot, where she intends to slip her own band's demo CD to record executives. She has been at odds with her twin sister Jane (Ashley Olsen -- you were expecting someone else?) since their mother's death. Jane is her opposite, a straight-laced honor student who is going to New York to make a speech to a scholarship committee in order to win her way to Oxford University.
A plot summary will sound ridiculous...but then so is the movie. It takes place in one event-filled day, when anything that can go wrong does. Roxy is pursued by a truant officer who thinks he's Dirty Harry (Eugene Levy, Best in Show). The twins find themselves the target of a nefarious gang whose goal is to pirate CDs and DVDs. Hitman Bennie Bang (Andy Richter, Late Night with Conan O'Brien) is after the computer chip his accomplice had hidden in Roxy's handbag, but which was subsequently eaten by a senator's dog. Jane's clothing is subjected to cracks, tears, spills, and splashes, her speech is lost, she's kidnapped, and she ends up miles from Columbia University where she's supposed to give her presentation. There are car chases, martial arts fights, a leap into a mosh pit, a walk in the sewers, and a makeover in a Harlem beauty and fashion shop. They meet cute boys. The twins rediscover their bond. There's more, but I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
Let's face it, TV's Full House didn't pick the Olsens out a pool of other nine-month-old babies because of their tremendous acting ability. They were twins, they were cute, they cried on cue.
What has changed in 17 years? Other than their own production company and burgeoning bank account, not much. They're mostly likeable onscreen, but their range lies somewhere between perky and giggly. Add to that a plot that isn't as fun as it thinks it is, and you have a tedious movie that drags the audience from one unfunny scenario to another with no real connection between them.
New York Minute wants to be a screwball comedy, along the lines of Bringing Up Baby if Katharine Hepburn had a twin, but the Olsens are not masters of either the slapstick or sophistication that genre requires. The script also skimps on the underpinning drama that is supposed to make us care about the characters. Their mother's death is the cause of their discord, but that's barely given air in this suffocatingly active story.
The twins' dislike for each other at the beginning is so routine that it's no more interesting or believable than their inevitable reconciliation. Of course they don't get along: Roxy's liberal, Jane's a Republican; Roxy's spontaneous, Jane's Dayplanner is her best friend. But of course they bond: they're sisters. That's all we're supposed to need.
The supporting cast makes me cry. No, not because of their powerful emoting, but because of the wasted talent. I thought Levy could read the phone book and make it funny, but he can't quite manage it with this script. Even so, his onscreen moments are the only real highlights in New York Minute. He fares better than his former SCTV and Second City colleague Andrea Martin, who has nothing to do except own the ugliest dog ever seen in film. The dog, Reinaldo, actually acquits himself quite well.
Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live fame plays a straight man. Andy Richter's portrayal of a mobster is embarrassingly bad, though it might have been funnier if I'd realized the accent he assumes was supposed to be Chinese before the script made it obvious.
The two boys (Riley Smith and Jared Padalecki) who serve as nominal love interests for the girls are suitably cute but bland. Their part in the story is presumably to make young girls swoon, since they have little to do with the plot. They keep running into the twins despite that, as do several other characters, making the New York of New York Minute the smallest town on earth.
New York Minute is not very entertaining, but it is innocuous. The PG rating warns of "mild sensuality and thematic elements," and the Olsens do run around in towels at one point, but there is little here to offend. One of the funniest moments is when Cute Boy #2 asks "is it my birthday?" on discovering the half-dressed twins in his hotel room, but men who were counting the days until the Olsens turned 18 will not find much here to titillate. While parents might be reluctant to sit through this one, they likely won't mind if their tweens choose to subject themselves to it.
The video and audio quality of this release make me wish the attention was lavished on a better movie. The transfer is nearly pristine, and the sound mix is dynamic. Both dialogue and the musical interludes sound great in technical terms, if not in content.
The extras should satisfy most fans. There is no commentary, which personally I found a relief, but there's a blooper reel that has some funny moments, two alternate endings that would have been no better or worse than the one that was ultimately chosen, and a making-of featurette that shows the power these then-17-year olds have as a result of their successful production company.
New York Minute tries hard to be a screwball comedy, but succeeds only in being trying. It will appeal to its target demographic of pre-teen girls more than anyone else, obviously, but not enough to justify a feature film release or wasting the comedic talents of actors who deserve better.
All involved are guilty as charged. Even Warner is guilty of creating a decent DVD package for a movie that so little deserves it.
Review content copyright © 2004 Diane Wild; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Two Alternate Endings
* Making Of Featurette
* Photo Gallery
* Official Site
* Olsen Twins Official Site