Studio Name: Lionsgate (Gold Circle Films/Epidemic Pictures/Edmunds Entertainment/Safran Company)
MPAA Rating: PG
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition; 16X9 Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (tested at core 5.1 DTS)
Director: Jonas Elmer
Starring Cast: Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick, Jr., JK Simmons
A couple of things stand out immediately upon reviewing Jonas Elmer's New in Town after seeing it theatrically, and now on Blu-ray at home...JK Simmons' absolutely waste of talent in his role as a bumbling, idiotic-talking Minnesota "Podunk" and the truly delicious and sexy-looking Renee Zellweger in her short, short skirt suits and outrageously high stilettos. Man, is she cute in this...
Zellweger, coming a long way since the Jerry Maguire days, plays Lucy Hill, a sex kitten of a high powered executive living in chic Miami and newly assigned to analyze the future of her company's operations in the outskirts of Minnesota. She's got her eye on a promotion if she accepts and pulls this assignment off -- that is, go to this one-cow town and downsize the manufacturing efforts of the foods company she is comfortable working for in sunny Miami. A couple of clichés from other comedy formulas are at work here, notably the environmental "shock" Zellweger's character experiences when she comes off the plane from Florida and walks outside of the Minnesota airport terminal, nearly freezing her hoo-ha off as the below-zero wind blows right under her short skirt. But there's more -- Zellweger's "Lucy" makes a contact for her job in Minnesota in the form of another "Podunk dunce" played by Siobhan Fallon Hogan who is supposed to be her executive assistant there, but quickly shows her hick roots. What's worse, Hogan's character attempts to set her up with Harry Connick, Jr., a widower living with his daughter in this iced-over weirdo town, but who turns out to be the local union representative for Zellweger's company.
While Connick, Jr. is tolerable here, the most ill-placed role has to be JK Simmons' character as the plant foreman -- his Minnesota redneck lines are simply not convincing nor funny, and it's difficult to imagine Simmons playing more memorable characters in the past after watching this, such as the skinhead leader in HBO's Oz or J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man. It was a horrible casting decision. As Zellweger deals with the abundant amounts of idiots before her in this town and under her watch at the manufacturing plant, she begins to get close to Connick, Jr. in an unrealistic scenario resembling nothing cemented in the real world; he flirts with her, she does a makeover on his daughter before the Valentine's dance, she goes hunting with him and Simmons' character (after Simmons is laid off as the foreman due to budget cuts Zellweger was forced to make) and the entire production is slathered in a thick, syrupy coating of stereotypical romantic underpinnings familiar to anyone who has spent time with this kind of cinema for any length.
There's some kind of a message here -- that this "city girl" can come full circle as a stuck-up fashion twit working in a posh office in Miami, then get a taste of the real world and what real working people go though when they lose honest jobs, all the while recalling her father's roots in the foods company when he worked in the factories. Is it a "message"? I'm uncertain of that, truly -- but it seems to be the underlying pulse that makes New in Town go. Inbetween, Zellweger gets stuck in a snow bank when her rental car in Minnesota flies off the road after just missing a cow, she's lied to by the factory workers about there being a "Groundhog Day" they must take off for, along with a holiday devoted to the fact that the local pond has frozen solid...what's truly frightening beyond any of this nonsense that runs rampant in the picture is the fact that people do truly live like this in certain parts of the United States...
The unavoidable romance between Zellweger's city girl character and the bearded, buck-toothed Connick, Jr. culminates in a moment where she almost gets in his pants as the two of them await the return of his daughter from the dance; unfortunately, as she is getting comfortable with these hick freaks in the town and falling in love with Connick, Jr.'s character, her company is getting impatient on the layoffs and closings she is supposed to be overseeing. Ultimately, she is called back to Miami where she is told that the Minnesota plant will be closed down and all the employees will lose their jobs -- some kind of conscience grows inside Zellweger's character's brain, and she suddenly feels sorry for these people (remember when I mentioned the thick layering of clichés?).
Feeling compelled to do something, she takes it upon herself to return to the frozen tundra of Minnesota and capitalize on the concept of taking her assistant's tapioca recipe and mass-marketing it. The plan works, as they test it out on folks at a local mall who eat the pudding up like Peter North down on Jessica Drake's...well, never mind that. Ignoring orders from her superiors in Miami, "Lucy" finds a way to reinstate Simmons, Connick, Jr. and the other factory hicks so they can fix the broken equipment in the plant to start making the tapioca. When her company catches wind of this, they decide to back the operation based on the great feedback about the product -- but with Zellweger now back in Florida after getting her raise to V.P., things start to come loose again in Minnesota and the company is again threatened to be sold.
There really isn't anything to New in Town -- it's a light, hollow comedy, I suppose, that doesn't break any new ground the way screamers such as 40 Year Old Virgin and I Love You, Man have in this genre. Connick, Jr. almost sleepwalks through some of his lines, and the absolutely horrendous, embarrassing performance by the bumbling JK Simmons is really one for the books; he should be ashamed of himself in this (in truth, he didn't have much to work with by the writing team of Kenneth Rance and C. Jay Cox).
But oh...does Zellweger look absolutely delicious in those short skirts...
NEW IN TOWN REVIEW CONTINUED BELOW...