By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Six Beers) –
In the first adaptation of author Janet Evanovich’s bestselling mysteries, Katherine Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, a New Jersey native who, after a period of unemployment, finds herself strapped for cash. She reaches out to her bail bondsman cousin Vinnie for help. He gives her a job working as a bail enforcement agent. (In spite of her lack of experience, self-defense skills, or really anything that would suggest the ability to get the job done). For her first job, she is assigned to bring in Joe Morelli, an old flame of hers, who is wanted for the shooting of an apparently unarmed man.
To the filmmakers credit, I can see a world in which this movie could have worked. The movie tries very hard to be quirky, but mostly ends up feeling like a funny anecdote being told very badly. I’m not familiar with Janet Evanovich’s stories, but they are immensely popular, separating millions of readers from their hard-earned money with each new release. And as we know, the laws of economics defy those of art.
One for the Money feels like it is making a lot of the same mistakes that the film adaptation of Carl Hiaasen’s Striptease made. Especially attempting to shorten the story down to Hollywood length by removing the elements that made the story funny to begin with.
One problem with book-to-film adaptations is the inherent difference in structure. The film One for the Money flies by in about 90 minutes, taking no time to build character or mystery. It would be one thing if they excised a large portion of side-plots to focus on one aspect of the novel, but instead the movie is like a job interview.
A series of introductions, with no payoff…
Once again, I haven’t read the books so I’m not sure how Stephanie Plum is supposed to look in the novel series. If her character is supposed to be at all believable as someone capable of defending herself, though, it was probably a bad idea to cast Katherine Heigl.
Not that this would be an improvement…
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m biased, however; I have never found Heigl to be that compelling of an actress. More people have begun to catch on as her recent films have tanked critically, but I can feel superior to other critics by saying that I saw this coming in Knocked Up, a movie where her only job was to make Seth Rogen feel guilty about being a happy person.
Where some saw comedy, I saw only sadness…
People in this world seem to react to horrifying events with an inhuman amount of self-control. This is highlighted best by the family dinner scene where grandma shoots the turkey with Stephanie’s gun.
Initial shock leads to minor annoyance.
If I saw senile old bag blasting away at a turkey she’d be on the next slow boat to a nursing home. The Grandma character in this movie is supposed to be one of those cliched “goofy” old people, who dole out sage advice and crazy antics in equal measure.
Another moment in the film that feels artificial is the car bombing scene, where Stephanie watches as someone dies in front of her, and all she cares about is the car. She doesn’t even seem shocked at the prospect that the bomb was meant for her. Dark humor only works if it is acknowledged that the event which occurred is disturbing to begin with.
The character of “Ranger” is supposed to be helping Stephanie learn the ropes of her trade. Instead he is used to save her ass every time she gets into trouble. Putting a character into an inescapable situation only to resolve it cheaply is one of the oldest and weakest literary techniques.
Deus Ex Machina only works in video games…
John Leguizamo’s character is an MMA trainer whose biggest client is a known rapist. Stephanie watches as he bribes a hooker for not going to the cops to report him. And he mysterious appears at the scene of the crime right as she makes her arrests. So how exactly does Stephanie not know that John Leguizamo is a bad guy until he pulls a gun on her?
Don’t be a pussy, he seems legit…
Weak story, weaker characters, and a failed attempt at stylized quirk. A lot of potential, though, making the failure only that much worse.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when Katherine Heigl’s accent slips in and out of New Jersey
Take a Drink: when Ranger saves the day.
Bodycount Bingo: take a drink for each murder as it is revealed