' Cinema Romantico: New in Town

Monday, February 02, 2009

New in Town

I typically enjoy trekking to the theater on Super Bowl Sunday for a little mindless fluff rather than insightful drama and hard-hitting philosophical cinematic questions. This is why yesterday found me settling down in my theater seat for the Renee Zellweger romantic comedy “New in Town” in which Ms. Zellweger portrays a city slicker fond of designer clothing sent from the land of skyscrapers and lattes at an unreasonable price into the Midwest, land of ice, snow, cold, people fond of saying things like “you betcha’” and “how about a little lunch?” only to watch as 1.) Hijinks ensue and 2.) She finds true love with Harry Connick Jr.

At least, that’s what I thought I was going to seeing based on the numerous previews that had assaulted my eyes over the last few months. As it turns out we can confirm that, yes, Ms. Zellweger portrays a “career woman”, Lucy Hill from Miami, but you do you really know why she’s lighting out for the middle of America?

This is where the movie gets interesting and I wonder how much I should reveal and so I will be cautious in observing that while you might think Ted Mitchell (Connick Jr.) is the local union rep meant to fall in love with Lucy that it's also possible Ted Mitchell might be Lucy’s ex business rival, a devious man who schemed his way to the top, possibly leaving dead bodies (possibly by his own hand) in his wake, who concocted and then executed an ambitious scheme in which he bilked an unsuspecting Lucy out of millions only to then seemingly vanish into the netherworld.

Ah, but that netherworld, you see, is, in reality, New Ulm, Minnesota, where Ted has traded in his evil ways for days working at the Co-op and nights ice fishing on the lake. Lucy has not forgotten, however, and one day over lunch she gains the current location of her old rival from an Italian guy (Thomas Jane), sporting slicked back hair and an accent I’m not sure was all that Italian, via the most violent use of grilled eggplant in cinematic history. Lucy then swings by the home of her mentor (Charles S. Dutton) where she procures enough weapons to fill an entire John Woo movie and points her sleek sedan in the direction of the Gopher State, though not before declaring that it's "time for a little payback."

I know this seems unbelievable but, believe me, you haven’t seen anything yet. This is only a partial list of what follows: poisoned meatloaf, a rude maitre'd stabbed with an ice scraper, a runaway combine tractor mowing down a housewife doubling as an assassin, a boathouse blown to smithereens, a shootout at the Mall of America (don’t ask how they get there), a subplot involving Ted having become a champion knitter (and don’t think that won’t play in at a crucial point), and the foreman of the New Ulm mill mocking Lucy's stiletto heels at which point Lucy removes one of said stiletto heels and jams it straight into...but then this is a family-friendly blog.

I felt like I should be laughing but there was something strangely charismatic in Zellweger’s performance, a very vengeful, real ire behind those eyes, as she transformed herself into a, shall we say, fish-out-of-water Charles Bronson. One minute she's giving a passionate speech to the townfolk at the VFW, enlisting them in her cause, the next she's threatening the corrupt mayor in his office with a blade from an outboard motor.

Not to mention the fact the film still finds time to work in a little romance involving the handsome young gas station attendant (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who fills up Lucy's car her first night in New Ulm and never seems able to catch as many walleye out on the icy lake as Ted. A later scene in a main street tavern, Brian and Lucy standing before a roaring fire while sawing a few inches off a couple shotguns, a moosehead above them looking down like an angel from heaven, will wring a few tears.

And as the movie reaches its climax and we find our two leads astride snowmobiles, clutching uzis, and staring each other down across the frozen tundra you might just find yourself gripping the side of your seat as Connick Jr. bellows "I own New Ulm! You're just some new chick in town!" allowing Zellweger to reply, in a raspy voice, “I might be new in town, but I’ve got an old score to settle.”

Boy does she.

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