'New in Town' is all worn out

Renee Zellweger and cast grind tired film clichés into slush.

January 29, 2009 

It is bad enough when a movie uses a worn-out plot gimmick. "New in Town" multiplies the disappointment by turning to a string of familiar film elements.

The result is such a dull, unimaginative and poorly photographed movie that, if it were to move into the house next door, you'd want to change ZIP codes.

Renee Zellweger plays Lucy Hill, an executive who rapidly is moving up the corporate ladder. She's sent to New Ulm, a small town in Minnesota, to take control of one of the company's factories. She's supposed to cut the staff to make the operation more profitable.

Her thick corporate skin is pierced by the good-natured locals and a single-dad widower, Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.).

Writer Ken Rance and C. Jay Cox have pieced together a movie with no imagination, no jokes and a complete void of chemistry between the characters. And it all plays out through trite, tired plot gimmicks.

First familiar plot gimmick: Hill is smart enough to become a force in her Florida-based company. But she is not smart enough to look at the Weather Channel to know that it is going to be cold in Minnesota in winter. Had the writers assigned her half a brain, it would have negated all of the hilarity of watching her stomp through the snow in high heels.

Second repeated plot gimmick: New Ulm, Minn., must be the home for all "Fargo" impersonators, dontcha know. "New in Town" uses the old trick of making everyone in town so down-to-earth and homespun that you just have to like them. Hollywood must not know that detestable people also live in small towns.

Third recycled plot gimmick: Does anyone really expect the factory is in serious trouble? That would be like putting a puppy on a railroad track and not yanking it away before the train arrives.

This old Hollywood chestnut of watching the new high falootin' boss discover her heart of gold has all the tension of a coffee commercial.

Fourth worn-out plot gimmick: The best looking guy in town can't get a date until an outsider shows up. Hill wins over Mitchell by giving his daughter fashion tips.

Fifth old plot gimmick: The ending is so hackneyed it might make your teeth hurt.

If you take all of those overworked elements and then shoot them in such a way to make everyone look bad, the result is this disastrously awful effort. The only good thing that can be said about "New in Town" is that it has set a high bar for all of the bad movies to come in 2009.

The reporter can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355.

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