One for the Money

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One for the Money

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Directed by Julie Anne Robinson. Starring Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo, Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds, Debra Monk, Nate Mooney, Adam Paul, Fisher Stevens. Written by Stacy Sherman & Karen Ray and Liz Brixius, from the novel by Janet Evanovich.

Here’s an early contender for worst film of 2012: Julie Ann Robinson’s One for the Money, based on the popular no novel by Janet Evanovich, which currently has a sparkling 2% on the Tomatometer. Yeah, it’s that bad, and possibly worse. It’s Midnight Run for 12-year-old girls, as if that’s exactly what they want.

There’s bad, and then there’s the kind of aggressively bad film that wears contempt for the audience on its sleeve. One for the Money falls into the latter category; it’s never boring – you’ll often be taken aback by the depths that the film plunges – as it grabs you by the neck, forces your nose into it, and sees how many sensibilities it can offend.

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Katharine Heigl stars as Stephanie Plum, who narrates the film with a full-on Jersey Shore New Joisy accent. I use narrate is the loosest sense of the term: she tells us exactly what’s happening on the screen, as if she’s doing a DVD commentary and has nothing better to say.

Stephanie, formerly a lingerie saleswoman at Macy’s, needs a job, and her bail bondsman cousin Vinny just happens to be hiring. It’s a perfect match – Stephanie has no experience (with anything, it seems), so why not become a bounty hunter and track down criminals who have skipped bail?

Not just any criminals, mind you: she starts out with Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a cop accused of murder. Joe also just happens to be her ex-high school boyfriend, who dropped her on less-than-amicable terms. Now, the ditzy Jersey girl can get her revenge by bringing this tough policeman to justice.

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Now, this sounds like a romantic comedy, a la the Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler flick The Bounty Hunter, only with the roles reversed. Only thing: there’s no romance, other than Stephanie drooling while Joe tells her how beautiful she is (he’s really handcuffing her to the shower rod), and there’s no comedy. There’s the light, breezy tone of a comedy, but not the, you know, jokes.

Instead: surprise! This is a police procedural/detective film. You see, instead of tracking down Joe (not that she needs to – this man, wanted for murder and on the lam, is always right around the corner, anyway), she decides that he maybe acted in self defense, and she can help his case. So she starts digging, and meanwhile, dead bodies start piling up around her.

By the end, our intrepid airhead has stumbled through the murder investigation, gotten five or so people killed (some of them innocent), trampled over all the evidence, and just mucked up everything. We’re led to believe she’s “solved the case” when she’s actually made things considerably worse; none of the evidence she’s collected will hold up, and her methods of collecting it should implicate her in the crimes.

But no, the police chief congratulates her on a job well done, and Joe brings her a cupcake. The utter stupidity on display here is stunning: the detective/procedural elements of the film, which account for the entirety of the plot, wouldn’t have passed muster on Dragnet or even in a 1930s serial. Of course, material this awful must based on a series (!) of novels and credited to three screenwriters.

Not to focus on the story: the filmmaking on display is wretched, too. Shots are composed and edited with almost no regard for audience comprehension: the opening dinner table scene – a dizzying array of centered medium shots – is a prime example. The acting – a parade of New Jersey stereotypes – isn’t exactly endearing. And poor Debbie Reynolds, who hasn’t been seen in cinemas in more than a decade, is utterly wasted in the prototypical Betty White role.

I’ve grown weary of generic, formulaic nature of Hollywood’s lackluster rom-coms and Adam Sandler comedies and Sarah Jessica Parker vehicles. But One for the Money has restored my faith in bad movies: here’s something especially awful.

Also opening this week:

  • A Royal Affair (showtimes | IMDb), a Danish period drama starring Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard. Screening in Danish with Czech subtitles.
  • Vrásky z lásky (showtimes), a comedy-drama from director Jiří Strach (Anděl Páně). In Czech.

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