| This fish-out-of-water romantic comedy offers nothing new and sticks to a comfortingly predictable formula.
Hollywood has always treated the middle of the country as a flyover zone between the two coasts inhabited by small town hicks. This disdain for country bumpkins is perpetuated by screenwriters Kenneth Rance (his first produced feature film) and C. Jay Cox (“Sweet Home Alabama”).
Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger) is an ambitious executive with a food-manufacturing conglomerate based in Miami. Sensing a promotion and a chance to move up another rung on the corporate ladder, she reluctantly accepts a temporary assignment to restructure and downsize a failing plant located in the desolate and snowbound town of New Ulm, Minn. (population 13,595).
Her big city tastes for fancy designer outfits, high heels, fast cars, jogging in the sunshine along the beach and a variety of cultural nightlife attractions don’t jive with the rustic existence of these hearty residents in the middle of nowhere. The women love to gossip, keep family scrapbooks and try new recipes. The men drink beer, drive pickup trucks, watch pro football and rarely shave.
The first half of the movie is devoid of laughs. Lucy doesn’t have enough common sense to bring along a winter coat. She has trouble adjusting to the frigid conditions, which are in sharp contrast to the balmy warmth of Miami.
Her introduction to Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.), the local union representative, is awkward. He has beer dripping from his bearded chin and she is unaware that the tips of her breasts show through her sweater due to the Arctic cold.
Lucy comes across as a stiff and uptight ice maiden who is very confident and sure of herself. She is not likeable and fails to gain any sympathy from the audience.
When her flight back to Miami for Thanksgiving is cancelled, she drives her car into a snow drift during a blizzard. Ted comes to her rescue.
The movie gets into a better groove and starts to thaw out, sprinkling in some sweeter romantic moments. However, this complete turnaround in tone comes too late to save the movie.
The best scene occurs when Lucy has to pee in the woods and the zipper is stuck on her hunting outfit.
Zellweger lacks the charm and effervescence that was so prevalent in the Bridget Jones films. Her unappealing character’s Lazy Susan of emotions consists of smirks, pouts and whines.
The supporting cast includes Siobhan Fallon (the birthing teacher from “Baby Mama”) as Lucy’s perky personal secretary, J.K. Simmons (“Burn After Reading,” “Juno” and “Spider-Man”) as the suspicious plant foreman, and Frances Conroy (Ruth Fisher in “Six Feet Under”) as the local real estate agent.
The movie is stacked with eccentric, one-note cardboard characters and a bevy of cliché-ridden dialogue. This chick flick will give the gals something to do during Super Bowl weekend.
The screenplay mirrors material contained in weekly television sitcoms minus the accompanying laugh track. The movie has a drab and washed-out picture quality, relying heavily on natural lighting.
The majority of the film was shot in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It is instantly forgettable and should have gone straight to DVD. Your better alternative for a similarly themed movie is to rent “Doc Hollywood” (1991) starring Michael J. Fox.
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"