Blu-ray Review: Katherine Heigl Bombs Again in Unfunny ‘One for the Money’

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CHICAGO – With each passing year, Katherine Heigl’s claims about Judd Apatow’s sexism appear increasingly absurd. While Apatow is producing A-grade work from female filmmakers, such as “Bridesmaids” and HBO’s “Girls,” Heigl is portraying shallow ditzes who are susceptible to chauvinistic, overgrown adolescents. “The Ugly Truth,” “Killers,” “Life as We Know It” and “New Years Eve” is not a track record worth bragging about.

Yet the worst crime committed by Heigl’s latest bomb, “One for the Money,” is that it is a complete bore. There isn’t a character or situation that inspires any modicum of interest. Viewers unfamiliar with novelist Janet Evanovich’s beloved heroine Stephanie Plum will fail to see what all the fuss is about. The script crams Evanovich’s hugely popular novels into a run-of-the-mill star vehicle fusing tired sitcom banter with a predictable murder mystery. This is the sort of picture that destroyed Whoopi Goldberg’s career. Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0

Heigl overdoes the exasperated lip-blowing and eye-rolling as Plum, a spunky screw-up whose new gig as a bail bond agent forces her to track down her churlish ex-flame, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara). “We’re ancient history—like the pyramids, baby!” snarls O’Mara like a would-be Clark Gable. It’s clear from this line forward that Plum and Morelli are destined to reignite their spark, but not before enduring 90 minutes of increasingly spiteful humiliations. Plum finds herself turned on when Morelli handcuffs her naked body to a shower rod and proceeds to trash her apartment. Later, Plum can barely contain her amusement when a hated co-worker expires in a fiery inferno erupting out of Morelli’s car. These characters are absolutely worthless specimens, and yet we’re expected to care about what happens to them. We’re supposed to believe that Plum can gobble up barrels of cheeseballs and still manage to look like a movie star. Apparently director Julie Anne Robinson believes that middle Americans will relate to this sugar-coated, one-dimensional depiction of a struggling young woman’s financial woes. It comes as no surprise to learn that Robinson’s previous directorial credits include episodes of “The Middle” and “Suburgatory.” Every character is required to deliver their quippy dialogue at a brisk pace with the hope that audiences will overlook the script’s multitude of groaners.

One for the Money was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 15, 2012.
One for the Money was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 15, 2012.
Photo credit: Lionsgate Entertainment

In an ensemble loaded with the talent, the biggest casualty is Debbie Reynolds as Plum’s kook of a grandma. In a film so utterly devoid of merit, Reynolds’s mere appearance causes viewers to lighten up. After all, this is the woman who delivered one of cinema’s most hilarious and poignant portrayals of aging parenthood in Albert Brooks’s 1996 comic treasure, “Mother.” Yet the script dashes our hopes for any possible enjoyment as soon as Reynolds’s character opens her mouth. She’s the sort of obstreperous old broad who likes saying naughty words and firing bullets into roasted chickens before exclaiming, “Shot that sucker in the gumpy!” I haven’t laughed this much since “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”

The sole figure onscreen that sparked my interest was Patrick Fischler, a character actor whose furrowed brow never fails to leave an indelible impression. He memorably played the frightened nebbish who encounters the fearsome man behind Winkie’s in David Lynch’s masterpiece, “Mulholland Dr.” Here, he’s merely required to play a disposal sleazeball, but at least he exudes squinty eyed, toothy sleaze without straining to be falsely likable. He’s the real deal. Heigl, on the other hand, struggles feebly to inject charm into charmless roles. My favorite moment in the whole film occurs when Plum glances at her pet hamster running aimlessly in its wheel. The image is supposed to be a metaphor for Plum’s life, but it also sadly reflects the sorry state of Heigl’s career.

“One for the Money” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English and Spanish subtitles, and includes a Blu-ray and digital copy of the film. The special features are as dull as the film itself—a forgettable gag reel, an additional make-out scene between Heigl and O’Mara—with the exception of a 10-minute documentary about real-life women in the bail bond industry. Their low-cut shirts and theatrical gun-waving make them just the sort of larger-than-life characters to inhabit a long-running TLC series. In the 11-minute making-of featurette, the filmmakers claim that the picture was made solely for Evanovich’s countless fans (translation: “for the money”), and that they bent over backwards to please the author. Co-writer Liz Brixius goes a step too far by declaring that Plum is, in fact, “the most beloved female character in fiction.” Somewhere, Bella Swan is weeping into her undead hands.

‘One for the Money’ is released by Lionsgate Entertainment and stars Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Daniel Sunjata, John Leguizamo, Sherri Shepherd and Debbie Reynolds. It was written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius and directed by Julie Anne Robinson. It was released on May 15, 2012. It is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

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I agree with a lot of the

I agree with a lot of the complaints you make about the lighthearted treatment of financial woes and the sexism in the movie; however, those are faithful representations of the books and should more appropriately be placed there (if the movie were not faithful to the books, that, too, would have evinced a cacaphony of complaints from audiences)

It should be noted, too, that the books (and the formula for them; as execrable as it is, big publishers require a formula although fortunately in the days since this series was originated, it has become feasible for unknown authors to self-publish and be read on sites such as Amazon as well as websites and blogs and become popular without having to adhere to these tired, old formulas — and also without having to adhere to rules of English grammar and spelling, but that is a topic for another day) were developed and the majority of them written in a time well before the country was plunged into the near-Depression it is now.

I confess that in an escapist mood I genuinely enjoy the books. I have to admit that they do have an I-believe-unintentional element of underlying sexism and they do create a fluffy image of poverty; while we’re at it, they also present some stereotypes of certain kinds of families and neighborhoods. I guess part of why I enjoy the books is because no one would ever confuse them with reality, and there is a kind of sense of camaraderie in the world of the books, in spite of the mayhem and murder. Also, Stephanie Plum never seems to worry that she can’t do something justice, she just gets out there and tries it; and, believe it or not, that actually inspires me to be a little less judgmental of myself and more active in just getting out there are and doing things, trying things, applying for jobs, etc.

I was prepared to be extremely disappointed in the movie, but I actually felt that the scriptwriters did a good job of conveying the background information from the book (which was not directly translatable; the books have a style of their own and rely heavily on narration of a certain tone which would be far too time-consuming to work in a movie) and conveying the sort of “lighthearted romp masquerading as a mystery” of the books, and somewhat also of the characters.

I expected to hate the actors, and I didn’t. Fiery Italian Morelli was portrayed by an Irish actor (who in my opinion acted well and so I forgive him for not really being Morelli). And the same goes for Daniel Sunjata who played Ranger, in that Sunjata is far too verbal and quick to be the deeper yet monosyllabic Ranger, but in spite of that, the emotions and the character were right and he made a good Ranger.

I have audiobooks of some of the series; and, as such, I feel that Lori Petty (who read the first three books, although I believe that there is also a non-Petty version out there) would make a great Stephanie (but she would never be cast because they would consider her “too old”). Similarly, I feel that Lorelei King (who read a number of the specials) would make a great Lula (she’s Caucasian, but as gangs point out, it’s about creating the image so you could dress and style her a certain way and her portrayal is perfect. But she would never be cast because they would consider her too old and the wrong race. And I am sure there are a also ton of good actresses out there who could also do Lula justice, although I do not feel that Shepherd was one of them)

This was actually one of the few times I didn’t hate Heigl. I thought that she tried to get the right accent and showed the right spirit (exactly the ditziness that is written into the character, as well as the sparring with Morelli and the getting out there to get what she wanted. I felt that she did less well at the guilt that Stephanie feels in being torn between her family and how aspects of her life upset them, or on the chemistry she is supposed to have with Ranger, as well as Morelli. And I believe that you are exactly right that she was smirking during the scene when Mortie Beyers is blown up in the car that Plum had stolen from Morelli — but I think that that was the actress being unprofessional and giggling because she was having fun during shooting, because it sure as heck wasn’t in the script or the books). But except for that, and against all expectation, I actually enjoyed her as Stephanie Plum.

I guess a good capsule summary of my post is that I agree with many of your complaints, but that they should be leveled at the books rather than the movie, because the movie actually represented the book — and the characters, and the series — fairly well.

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