New York Minute
Posted on May 3, 2004 at 6:41 pmC+
|Lowest Recommended Age:||4th - 6th Grades|
|Violence/ Scariness:||Comic peril, no one hurt|
|Diversity Issues:||Diverse characters (but some stereotyping), strong women|
|Date Released to Theaters:||2004|
People in movies tend to fall into two categories. Some are actors and some are movie stars. A few are both. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson are not actresses and they are not movie stars. What they are is a brand. If their videos and television shows were food, they would be a Happy Meal. That makes this movie the supersized version, reliable and reasonably enjoyable, but of questionable nutritive value and possibly leaving you feeling a little queasy.
This feature film is bigger and more lavish than their popular videos, but about the same level of entertainment value. The girls play estranged twin sisters who barely speak to each other anymore but when they both have to be in New York City for crucially important and life-changing events and everything goes wrong, they end up spending an adventure and romance-filled day together.
As they face off opposite each other early in the morning, the soundtrack cranks up the old Edwin Starr version of “War.” Jane (Ashley Olson) is the super-organized super-achiever who is on her way to New York to deliver a speech in a competition for a scholarship to Oxford University. Roxy (Mary-Kate Olson) is the free spirit and aspiring rock star who wants to cut school to go to the filming of a music video so she can hand out copies of her CD to recording industry executives. But first they have to deal with being thrown off the train, being chased by a hitman who has hidden a valuable computer chip in Roxy’s purse, losing Jane’s speech, meeting up with two very cute guys, and many changes of costume.
The plot is pretty standard bonding-through-adversity stuff, including a literal “my dog ate it” plot twist (in the next movie, I’ll bet the butler did it). There are a couple of funny moments, mostly those involving either slapstick comedy or SCTV vets Eugene Levy (as the truant officer stalking the biggest catch of all — Roxy) and Andrea Martin (as a dog-loving Senator). It’s good to see New York City playing itself, instead of Toronto acting as understudy. Jack Osborne and a man from the Olson’s past make brief appearances and Dr. Drew Pinsky brings the same dignified kindness to the role of the girls’ father that he does to his popular radio call-in show about sex. But the movie still feels so artificial that it never captures the interest.
Perhaps it is because they are such hothouse flowers and have been surrounded by show business types and people who work for their Dualstar company all their lives, but Mary-Kate and Ashley don’t seem to have much of a sense of how normal people behave in real life. All of their gestures and expressions come from the way people behave on television, imitations of imitations.
They can trot around on Sex-in-the-City high heels, and they smile, pout, and scream on cue. They know how to look pretty when they have to try on a montage of outlandish outfits bursting with bling-bling. But they don’t have the guts to go for it when it’s a choice between looking cute or getting the laugh. And the scenes (mercifully few) requiring actual acting are almost painful to watch. It is always good news to have a movie for the 8-14-year-olds, but it is too bad this one isn’t better.
Parents should know that the movie has the mildest concerns about language (a post-it saying “remove stick from butt” is about as rough as it gets) and violence. It has some booty-shaking, implied comic nudity, and skimpy clothing but when the girls have to run around the city wearing a robe and a towel both are no-nonsense cover-ups. There are a couple of kisses and one of the girls has a boy fall on top of her. There is also some crude potty humor.
Parents will be more concerned about the behavior in the movie, including lying, cutting school, cheating, stealing, forgery, reckless driving without a license, and accepting a ride from a stranger, all with very little by way of consequences. Audience members may also find the portrayal of minority characters to be uncomfortably stereotyped. The African-American characters are kind, wise, and generous but they express themselves in a manner that is exaggerated and caricature-ish even beyond what is allowable for a comedy. The villain is a Dragon Lady right out of the old Terry and the Pirates comic strip, and Andy Richter’s henchman who thinks he’s Chinese so speaks in pidgen English is just awful. Again, this just seems to be carelessness that stems from its inability to think outside of re-re-recycled stories from other movies and television shows that appear to be the only source material for this film.
Families who see this movie should talk about Shirl’s comment that “It’s the curveballs that make life interesting — shows us what we’re made of. And if we’re lucky sometimes there’s a miracle at the end of that wrong turn.” How did the loss of the girls’ mother make it harder for them to be close to each other? What was the most important thing that Jane and Roxy learned from each other? When do you have an opportunity to help someone the way that Trey, James, Shirl, and Mr. McGill help Jane and Roxy?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy seeing Mary Kate and Ashley Olson grow up by watching their video series. They will also enjoy Adventures in Babysitting and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (both with more mature material than this movie).