Firstly, let me ask this: isn’t the point of a romantic comedy that we are sucked into the heart-warming, gooey romance and leave dreamy eyed? That being said, this new rom-com definitely fails this primary objective.
The two protagonists are not in the least desirable and you would never fantasise that either were you or your partner. I am a fan of Zellweger and call me a sucker but I just love that toothpaste-ad smile and southern drawl of Connick Jnr, so I cannot understand how two perfectly decent-looking actors have been made so unattractive in this film. Zellweger seems to have aged 10 years and fashions a hideous Barbra Streisand haircut. Connick Jnr is covered in wild facial hair and sports an ugly-making scowl throughout.
Eye candy aside, New In Town is a small town USA romance between a hotshot Miami executive Lucy Hill (Zellweger) and a local union representative and single dad, Ted Mitchell (Connick Jnr). The two clash at the local factory over the implementation of changes that Lucy is overseeing. In addition to Lucy’s union woes, she has to contend with distrust and suspicion from the factory workers and townspeople. Lucy’s only allies are her tapioca-making secretary Blanche Gunderson (Fallon Hogan), and the local scrapbooking circle, including Trudy Van Uuden (Conroy). The story follows Lucy’s gradual change from business-hardened axe-woman to local hero. Meanwhile, the romance between Lucy and Ted blossoms against the backdrop of the inhospitable Minnesota weather, strange town past times and Lucy’s role as female advisor to Ted’s daughter.
New in Town is Danish director Elmer’s first english language feature. Unfortunately, for a romantic comedy this film is well below average and it tries way too hard. The story itself is the usual opposites attract fare, but it’s the completely contrived nature of the characters that make the townspeople ridiculous rather than endearingly quirky — think scary human Oompa-Loompas instead of Northern Exposure. Their quasi Canadian/German accents are terribly forced and tend to ridicule small town folk instead of creating an earnest portrayal of down-to-earth, simple people. The comedy is lacklustre and typical.
For all the faults though, there are some good points. The cast is impressive, with a wealth of experience in quirky characterisations. Zellweger is famed for her iconic characters and yet it appears that it is the relatively non-eccentric roles that she has a problem playing. Conroy’s portrayal of mother Ruth from TV's Six Feet Under was a favourite of mine, as was Simmons eccentric but lovable dad in Juno. Here, his factory foreman Stu Kopenhafer provides some entertainment — yet his appearances, like those of Conroy, are too few and far between. Sadly, it seems that even with the potential of a cast such as this, the characters did not translate into tangible and lovable beings. Go along if you have nothing better to do, but you definitely won’t get your chick flick kicks from this one.