Sunday, January 29, 2012

One For The Money

"Why Oh Why Wasn't I In 'Bridesmaids' Or 'Jane Eyre'?"

Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum and Ana Reeder as Connie in Julie Anne Robinson's "One For The Money". 


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Sunday, January 29
, 2012

I wonder if Katherine Heigl (pronounced "Hay-gle") is thinking about the what-ifs of being in "Bridesmaids" in retrospect.  I remember Ms. Heigl in "Under Siege" way back when as the young lady under siege, but unfortunately the talented actress is under siege with the slew of poor films she's been in over the last three years ("The Ugly Truth", "Killers", "Life As We Know It", "New Year's Eve".) 

Ms. Heigl is probably in a position that many women (and more than a few men) in 2012 Hollywood are in: taking poor films versus taking nothing in order to put food on the table.  It's a shame that such choices are still made in the industry, but Ms. Heigl is so much better than the films she's been in, and that includes "One For The Money", which opened on Friday and was tellingly not screened in advance
for the press.  The film lives up to its title as a straight-up money grab, opening "cold" (without any fanfare) in the hopes that audiences would see it out of curiosity and film critics wouldn't light a fire under it before it saw the light of day.

Based on Janet Evanovich's best-selling book, Julie Anne Robinson's comedy-drama meanders, flips sides like a pancake, and lacks energy.  Stephanie Plum (Ms. Heigl) has just been divorced, laid-off and takes a job from her cousin -- the latter alone is sometimes bad news by itself -- as a bail-bondsman trying to snare a former boyfriend, bad apple Trenton, New Jersey cop Joe Morelli (Jason O'Hara), who has shot an unarmed man dead during a raid.  There's a very tenuous tie-in story involving a decorated boxer developed by Jimmy Alpha (John Leguizamo), and a firearms trainer and security man (Daniel Sunjata, "The Devil Wears Prada") who schools the sloppy, awkward and suddenly-single Stephanie in marksmanship.   

"One For The Money" is as poorly conceived as its tagline ("She's looking for a few not-so-good men."  Someone at Lionsgate actually signed off on that??)  Written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius, the film's dialogue is as weak and stale as yesterday's dishwater, and quality lines like this --"So two guys tonight see me naked in the shower and leave.  Should I be worried?" -- ensure that the gravely insecure Stephanie remains single for the foreseeable future.  There's little harmony or relationship between Stephanie's objectives and some of the events, particularly the raid -- which we're shown a number of times, either for the sake of making "Money" a more credible or serious film, or to pad its running time -- fall flatter than flat. 

Characters are expediently dismissed, and the recurring catch-me-if-you-can encounters between Stephanie and Joe are dull.  I didn't buy Joe Morelli being a cop, for his protocol as a police officer is too false, even in a turkey of a caper like this.  More dreadful still: Stephanie as a bail-bondsman spends more time being handcuffed naked, half-naked, wrapped in shower curtain, or displaying a push-up bra than she does trying to get Joe in custody, and even when that's accomplished, all it takes is a cupcake -- which Joe has been derisively calling Stephanie all film long -- to get Joe back in Stephanie's good graces.  So what exactly was the film in aid of?  And why would anyone think it made any sense?  I'm reminded of the 2010 film "Cop Out", which "Money" plays out just as foolishly as.

Sherri Shepherd ("Precious") and Ryan Michelle Bathe appear as prostitutes in an insulting, putrid series of scenes that reminded me of the horrors of "B.A.P.S.", sending me to the hell of blackface clowning and caricature.  The stereotypes of Italian-Americans hit new lows too.  Much of the film is even flimsier than the stock cardboard it traffics in.  Ms. Heigl can do far better, but I fear she and many other actresses in Hollywood won't ever get the opportunity to play solid characters.  Perhaps this is the Hollywood life that Ms. Heigl (and her agent) are comfortable in and resigned to.

Ms. Robinson, who directed "The Last Song", never develops a rhythm for "One For The Money".  There's narration by Stephanie that's unnecessary for the film even if it was part of the book.  There's shots and scenes that aren't coherent, with too much of a stage ceded to them.  The shooting gallery scenes go on too long, and only to showcase poor screenwriting.  I suppose all of this is down to poor editing (Lisa Zeno Churgin).  There are "comedy" bits that just aren't funny.  Shooting a dead turkey was funny in 1953, perhaps, or in an imaginary episode of "The Honeymooners" or "All In The Family", but shooting a dead turkey in a film done in 2010 and released almost two years later, well: it kind of loses its je ne sais qua.

If any turkey should ever be shot to smithereens at all, it's this lousy mess.  "One" more thing: why do some films adapted from books beginning with the word "one" make such bad movies lately?  "One Day" was an absolute nightmare last year, and "One For The Money", largely stripped of the wit, raunchy material and context Ms. Evanovich's book provides, has an early start as one of the year's worst.  (Along with "Man On A Ledge" two on the same January weekend seems about right.) 

By the way: look at the bottom right hand side of the photo in this review.  Isn't that toilet paper on the table?  Perhaps Lionsgate, the director and actors had a clue of what was going to start coming their way down the road, and wanted some protection to defend themselves.  They'll need more rolls than one.

With: Debbie Reynolds, Debra Monk, Patrick Fischler, Adam Paul, Fisher Stevens, Gavin-Keith Umeh, Alexis Treadway Murray, Nate Mooney, Jack Erdie, Louis Mustillo, Leonardo Nam, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Marla Sucharetza, David Flick, Angela Pietropinto.

"One For The Money" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity.  The film's running time is one hour and 46 minutes.

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