Watching this movie is like eating a bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s not fancy, it’s not special, but it gets the job done and you generally don’t regret it afterwards. But not every movie can be The Godfather, and not every meal can be gourmet steak. Sometimes, though, the basics are all you need, and even though New In Town contains not one single original idea, character, joke, or plot point, it’s also a refreshing trip to the basics of lighthearted celluloid fare. Take Sweet Home Alabama, substitute the classy Renee Zellweger for the saucy Reese Witherspoon, drop the production in the frozen tundra of Minnesota instead of the sweltering heat of the deep south, and you’ve got another in a long line of fish out of water tales that does everything you would expect–no more, no less. But in a day and age when Hollywood continues to push the envelope of gratuitous spectacle at the expense of storylines, New In Town is a welcome change from the usual and a solid way to pass the time if you’re just looking for a simple, enjoyable movie.
The plot is as basic as can be: Lucy Hill (Zellweger), playing Stuffy Female Corporate Executive Hollywood Character #16-B, is transplanted by her national dairy corporation employer from the sunny beaches of Florida to the frozen wasteland of New Ulm, Minnesota, in the dead of winter to shut down the local yogurt factory. Lucy hates the cold, wants to get in and take care of business as quickly as possible, and will be gosh-darned if she’s going to make friends with any of the locals. And if you can’t tell where things go from there, you might as well turn off your computer right now and cry yourself to sleep, as you have no business reading a movie review web site. :)
Harry Connick, Jr., shows up to flash a smile and collect a paycheck as Ted Mitchell, the local blue-collar dude with perpetual five o’clock shadow and a rusty pickup to match. Of course he and Lucy don’t get along, especially since he’s the local union representative for the dairy factory. But as quickly as you can say “Lutheran church potluck” the two hit it off and realize that true love, or at least fleeting Hollywood infatuation, knows no bounds.
Despite the headache-inducing predictability, the story is enjoyable and there’s enough Minnesota jokes to satisfy even the Coen Brothers. It’s fun watching Lucy get the hang of a small Minnesota town in winter, experience the joys of hunting and ice fishing, and learn how to appreciate pee-wee hockey matches. Siobhan Fallon does an excellent job as Blanche, a mentor of sorts for Lucy who goes to bat for her with the locals and even unashamedly questions her about her Christian faith, or lack of it. I was honestly shocked at this, and could hardly believe a major (or at least semi-major) Hollywood production would take Christians seriously rather than treat them as cheap jokes, tired stereotypes, or easy punchlines. Blanche and many of her fellow New Ulm residents are serious about their faith and serious about witnessing to outsiders, and I found this to be a supremely welcome change from the norm.
Will love triumph over career obligations? Will the dairy operation shut down and put all the residents out of a job? Will Blanche ever reveal the secret receipt for her tapioca? Such questions are moot, as the answers are as easy and uncomplicated as pouring powdered cheese and milk into a vat of boiled noodles. But if these items were ever in doubt, then you’re looking for the wrong movie. New In Town is a well-made, respectable, and enjoyable 90 minutes even if you’ve seen it all before in a dozen other movies. Just goes to show the staying power of a classic formula.
Last 5 posts by Simon R.
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