New In Town

By Genevieve Mc Bride

When asked my impression of “New in Town” the first thing I could come up with was, “It was cute.” That meant I felt positive about the movie, right? Right. It just wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. However, anything less than “cute” would’ve been unfair, but anything more would’ve been effusive.

Now that I’ve had time to mull over my response, I can’t help but remember the time I overheard a coworker compliment another coworker with, “You look cute.” To which the complimented coworker replied, “Thank you, but cute is for puppies. I was hoping for great.” Her inability to accept compliments graciously aside, I suppose, when you’re in your mid-40s, as this coworker was, cute just doesn’t cut it anymore. There does come a time, with maturity, one would rather hear they made a more indelible impression.

So what made this movie simply cute and not great? Maybe because I can’t answer the following questions with “Great!” But I could certainly answer them with “Cute.”

How was Renee Zellwegger, who plays Lucy Hill, a determined and driven Miami executive presented with the opportunty to restructure a manufacturing plant in New Ulm, Minnesota? Cute. Okay, I can say she’s extremely fit. Dresses impeccably in tailored power suits and works designer stilletos something fierce. But the whole package, complete with a pretty, but oddly stiff, face that winces more than it smiles, is just…cute.

How was Harry Connick, Jr., who plays Ted Mitchell, the union rep Renee’s character must negotiate with to facilitate the reorganization. Cute. Real cute with that beard. But that’s as enthusiastic as I can get and I love love love Harry Connick, Jr. His role is lowkey and what charm it allows him to cast toward Lucy is from afar. Personally, I think he would’ve been great with a piano and some singing. But that’s HCJ the singer. Alas, HCJ the actor only had a truck, birdshot and malfunctioning factory equipment. Thus, he remained just darn cute.

How was the supporting cast, headed by Siobhan Fallon, who plays Lucy’s quirky secretary, Blanche, and J. K. Simmons as the dour factory foreman, Stu? Cute. The only thing not cute about the townfolk were the sweaters and wallpaper. Ghastly would work better there. Their Minnesotan accents were spot-on (well, as far as I know, considering the only other Minnesotans I’ve ever heard were in other movies). Apparently we’re to believe New Ulm is full of either scrapbooking, Christian do-gooders bearing food or joyless, implacable factory workers who would rather drink beer, ice-fish or shoot crow.

How was the storyline? Cute. Predictable. An unoriginal romantic comedy that attempts to have message. An ambitious up-and-comer has her eye on the CEO title and thinks playing the hardnose in a cost-cutting, streamlining reorganization project will impress the boss. Hardnose in high heels comes up against a tight-knit community in flannel that’s not impressed with her wardrobe, her multi-syllabic vocaulary or her city girl naivete at all. Despite the arctic attitudes and scenery, there’s thawing on both sides as Lucy is drawn into the fold by Blanche and her scrapbooking matchmakers. She and Ted take turns rescuing each other and eventually Lucy discovers there’s a time to be all-business and there’s a time to be human, and her success comes when she finds the balance between both.

So, while I was hoping I could tell you this movie was great, I can’t. Maybe with more story development, more tangible chemistry between Ted & Lucy, it would have made a more indelible impression. For this lighthearted rom-com, cute will just have to do.

3 out of 5