“New In Town”
At Quality 16 and Showcase
2.5 out of 5 Stars
The big-city-lady-migrates-to-the-suburbs movie is easy to pick on. The formula goes something like this: An A-list female lead finds herself stuck in rural land only to realize that small town life and frumpy, difficult dudes can bring her happiness. This scenario, which seems to compromise progressive feminist ideals, is best exemplified in “Baby Boom,” “Raising Helen” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” And “New in Town” is the latest entry in an all-too-easy genre.
But that’s not to say that all those flicks are lousy. They’re just … predictable. And that’s not a terrible thing. “New in Town,” a vehicle for Renée Zellweger (“Leatherheads”), is yet another fish-out-of-water film. Neither recommendable nor regrettable, “New in Town” is like comfort food. It’s that box of oatmeal cream pies to which you keep coming back.
Anywho, take note of the adherence to formula: The woman is Lucy Hill (Zellweger), a Miami food company executive. The rural area is New Ulm, Minnesota. And the guy is Ted (Harry Connick Jr., “P.S. I Love You”), the local union representative at odds with Lucy. The rest is totally by-the-book. There are montages of Lucy adapting and fights that end in kissing. And ultimately, Lucy has to decide whether or not to stay in Minnesota or go back to Miami. Like anyone doesn’t see it coming.
But with “New in Town,” the amusement certainly isn’t derived from the story. This narrative has been seen a hundred times. This movie has easy jokes at the expense of “Minnesota nice.” It has side characters who outperform Zellweger at every turn, and the always amusing prospect of culture clashing is present. A prissy woman in winter? Hilarious! But seriously, it’s like Minnesotans aren’t a little strange and funny. Ever listen to Garrison Keillor?
Specifically, Siobhan Fallon (“Baby Mama”) and J.K. Simmons (“Juno”) steal the show. Fallon plays Blanche, Lucy’s scrapbooking, Jesus-loving, tapioca slamming secretary. Her naiveté is matched only by her kindness. She’s preachy, yes, but at least she’s a good lady. Her scrapbook parties and “doncha know” speak are funny.
And Simmons, this decade’s most reliable second banana, plays the plant foreman Stu, the requisite Minnesotan man. Every scene he’s in, he out-acts Zellweger in every way. Just look for his screaming match in his ex-wife’s basement, where every not-quite-blue swear comes to “gee-golly-gee” fruition. Simmons make Minnesotans almost amusing again.
“New in Town” is the kind of simple amusement that can be found indoors on a winter’s Sunday morning. Or it’s a great date movie that can be both derided or enjoyed, depending on perspective. “New in Town” is totally junk food, but there’s no shame in liking it. It’s just not the best junk food out there.
There’s a give and take with this film. At times, yelling at Lucy for being so predictably stuffy seems fair. Other times, the film’s “Fargo”-speak is cute. “New in Town” is a decent movie, plain and simple. There’s no reason to like it, but it’s enjoyable anyway. It’s not recommendable, but it isn’t waste of time either. Besides, it’s warmer than ice sailing on Lake Wobegon.