New in Town (2009)
Release Date: January 30th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Jonas Elmer Actors: Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr., Frances Conroy, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Nancy Drake
he very first joke in “New In Town” is so terribly unhumorous that the film could only go uphill from there. But it doesn’t. Lionsgate Films, not known for their comedies, once again dabbles with big names and risqué humor, but falls flat when it comes to entertainment. By now, such formulaic, unoriginal drivel shouldn’t satisfy intelligent women, but someone keeps purchasing tickets for these types of mindless chick flicks, giving studios the incentive to keep churning them out. Just because easily pleased, middle-aged women are the target audience doesn’t mean the movie has to be so annoyingly indistinctive for everyone else.
The film opens with gossiping old nags (who are meant to be funny) chiming in with the latest bits of news, including who will be overseeing the equipment changeover at the Munck Foods factory, which furnishes jobs for the majority of townsfolk in New Ulm, Minnesota. Most are set in their ways, familiar with the simple comforts of ice-fishing, caroling, and tapioca feasting. They’re certainly not prepared for the likes of Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger), an executive Miami businesswoman looking for a way to continue advancing her career.
Right away, Lucy feels out-of-place, irritated by her idiosyncratic coworkers and subordinates, most of who show little respect for their new boss. Adjusting to the cold weather, apparent lack of professionalism, and opinionated residents proves to be daunting, especially when she immediately ruins relations with the local union rep, brashly fires the factory foreman, and winds up trapped in a frosty snow bank – all during her first week. In time, she warms up to the town she once despised, especially after she catches the attention of hunk Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.) and gains the friendship of secretary Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hogan). But just as her new life is becoming tolerable, further problems arise when the bigwigs back in Florida determine that the New Ulm facility needs to be shut down.
Gags with perky nipples, urinating in the woods, getting shot in the rear, and tapioca fighting (via montage) are the brunt of the low-key humor in “New In Town,” which sets the mood for this frightfully generic bummer. Every single scene in the film must have been inspired from other equally uneventful comedies, since nothing is original or even mildly amusing. It doesn’t take much to recognize how recycled the plot is and how paper-thin the characters are; not only is there zero creativity, there’s also nothing to laugh at. Ted jokes after rescuing Lucy from one of her many icy predicaments: “You’re not so bad when you’re unconscious.” The same could be said for “New In Town” if the unconscious state was bestowed upon the viewer.
– Mike Massie