One for the Money

Posted on January 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Someday to be used in film schools as a textbook example of how not to adapt a best-selling novel for the screen, “One for the Money” is mis-cast, mis-scripted, and mis-directed in every category.  Janet Evanovich’s popular series of series of books about lingerie saleswoman-turned bounty hunter Stephanie Plum seemed like a sure bet.  But what’s not a sure bet is an actress who signs on as producer so she can cast herself in what turns out to be a misbegotten vanity project.

Katherine Heigl is a beautiful actress whose greatest attribute is an imperishable freshness.  In the right movie, like “Knocked Up,” that works in her favor. Surrounded by the crudest possible material the contrast she provided gave warmth and romance to the film.  But her range is limited and she is way beyond her capacity as a gritty Jersey girl who once ran over the guy who never called after they had sex on the floor of the bakery where she was working.  Stephanie Plum is not supposed to be perky and adorable.  She’s supposed to be sadder but wiser, determined, and, above all, game.  Director Julie Ann Robinson has more experience with television (“Two Broke Girls,” Heigl’s “Grey’s Anatomy”) and never finds the right rhythm for the material.  It is lumpen and awkward and it telegraphs its surprises.  And just because it is written, directed, and produced by women does not keep it from being sexist, with some unfortunate stereotyped sassy black hookers thrown in for added discomfort.

It is hard to work up the energy to be offended by the stereotypes, though, when one is suffocating from the lethargy induced by the movie’s sluggish pacing and the fog induced by Heigl’s attempts at snappy dialog and a New Jersey accent.

Stephanie is a divorcee (“I had a husband.  I didn’t like it.  I don’t want another one.”) who lost her job selling lingerie and is about to lose her car for failure to keep up the payments.  Her cousin is a bail bondsman who needs someone to help with filing.  She blackmails him into giving it to her and then realizes that the real money is in bounty hunting and that the number one fugitive is Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a cop charged with murder who in one of the movie’s most tiresome contrivances, has a past connection with Stephanie.  Everyone in Trenton has a past connection with Stephanie.

We are then treated to a series of scenes in which Stephanie gets some guidance on bounty hunting from the hunky Ranger (Daniel Sunjata, another “Grey’s Anatomy” transplant) and has a series of cat-and-mouse encounters with Joe (the hunky Jason O’Mara of “Life on Mars”), trading painful quips that are supposed to be flirtatious but thud with a squish like overripe grapefruit.  The mixed messages (Joe may be on the lam and handcuff her, naked, to the shower rod but he brings her coffee in bed) would be annoying if the whole movie was not too lethargic to merit that much attention.

 

Parents should know that this movie has some rough material for a PG-13, including strong and crude language, sexual references and partial nudity, drug dealing, and violence (characters injured and killed).

Family discussion: What makes Stephanie good at her job?  What makes her like this job?

If you like this, try: the books by Janet Evanovich and the far better (R-rated) bounty hunter movie, “Midnight Run”

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Based on a book Crime

9 Replies to “One for the Money”

  1. You didn’t say whether you’re fan of the Stephanie Plum series. That may have made a difference. My wife and her sister have read all the books, some more than once. They found the movie entertaining though they were troubled as well by the casting, except for Lulu’s character. They thought she was spot-on. Since I was dragged along too, I’ll say the movie was watchable but no better in quality than many of the made-for-TV movies you can see any day. Okay, since I’m a guy, I’ll admit I liked the scene with Katherine Heigl handcuffed in the shower. THAT you won’t see in a made for TV movie.

  2. I think maybe you are not a fan of Janet’s books or maybe didn’t read them all. Some of your negative comments are about scenes that actually happen in the book. I agree that some of the casting would not have been my first choice (Ranger for example) but I think if you are a fan of the books you will enjoy the movie.

    1. Thanks, April! I didn’t object to the characters or the incidents, just the way they were adapted to the screen. If it had had a different cast and director it could have been as good as the books.

    1. Thanks, Jack, you are hilarious! Fortunately for you, I always mention those elements of a movie so keep coming back for guidance to help you find the movies you will enjoy.

  3. I am reading her entire series of books – I am up to book 14, and love them!! I hesitate to see the movie because I don’t want the ‘characters’ to ruin the rest of the books for me. I just can’t see the characters that were chosen to match up what is in my mind when I read the books. Thanks for the information – I will hold off on seeing the movie for now. Thanks!

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