What exactly is wrong with city living? Every time some confident, career-oriented city dweller in a Hollywood movie finds him or herself in a small town, it’s only a matter of time before he or she has cast off the oppression of go-go urban life and embraced the simplicity, community and low ambitions of rural domesticity. Just once, couldn’t we have a movie where an arrogant small-town jerk learns the joys of never talking to your neighbors, being able to order food at 3 in the morning and having a wide array of job opportunities?
It’s doubtful, so in the meantime we have to endure abominations like New in Town, which is serious competition for Bride Wars and Paul Blart: Mall Cop in the already heated race for worst movie of 2009. Zellweger stars as heartless corporate shark Lucy Hill, who lives in a big city (Miami), is in her 30s yet unmarried and childless (horrors!) and actually cares enough about her job to want to climb the ladder at the snack-food conglomerate where she works. To that end, she accepts the responsibility of converting and downsizing a packaging plant in the small Minnesota town of New Ulm.
As expected, the simple residents of New Ulm don’t cotton to Lucy’s city ways, and she doesn’t find their folksy traditions charming in the slightest. But the lead negotiator (Connick) for the plant’s union happens to be a really good-looking guy, and even though they have nothing in common, there’s something about him that Lucy just can’t resist. Cue fumbling romance, lightning-fast changes of heart and the rote transformation of Lucy from urban career woman to small-town community member.
Maybe if the movie were remotely funny, the mountain of clichés, regressive gender politics and blatant condescension would be somewhat forgivable, but Town’s idea of humor is a bunch of exaggerated Minnesota accents and references to scrapbooking. For a movie that constantly chastises its heroine for condescending to small-town Minnesotans, Town spends most of its running time doing just that. Zellweger whines her way through an ill-defined role (Lucy is alternately hyper-competent and almost shockingly boneheaded), and has absolutely no chemistry with Connick.
Director Elmer once made a movie that IMDb refers to as “the Danish Bridget Jones,” but New in Town can’t even come close to the charms of Zellweger’s rom-com apex. Everyone would be much better off if Lucy had just shut down the plant and returned to Miami.