A romantic comedy just as benign and generic as its instantly forgettable title suggests, New in Town may be a simplistic reworking of rom-com script number 42B, yet much like Blanche Gunderson's "nothing fancy" meatloaf, it has a certain Midwestern charm that settles calmly in the stomach, making the viewer feel warm, comfortable, and quick to smile.
Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger) is a Miami executive on the fast track to becoming CEO of a powerful business firm. Presented with the opportunity to restructure a manufacturing plant in New Ulm, MN, Lucy catches the next flight out of Miami and prepares to prove herself in the field. At first she's all business, determined to remain professional, do her job, and get back to Miami as quickly as possible. But things work differently in Minnesota than they do in Miami, and though her initial approach to dealing with new secretary Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon), union rep Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.), and gruff factory foreman Stu Kopenhafer (J.K. Simmons) is decidedly cool, a little time -- and a few servings of Blanche's top-secret-recipe tapioca -- help her to realize that in the snowy Midwest, a warmer modus operandi can work wonders. Just as Lucy begins growing closer to Ted, however, she learns that the reconfiguration has failed and that the company plans to close the factory down. Will the woman who was once all business simply cut her losses and move on to the next opportunity, or can she find another product for the factory to produce and keep the hardworking people of New Ulm gainfully employed at the same time?
If the question to that last question isn't glaringly obvious, you're sure to get a kick out of New in Town. Conversely, if you guessed the answer correctly but still have a soft spot for predictable romantic comedies, you'll likely be forgiving enough to let this well-played yet wholly unoriginal charmer work its watery magic on you. Aside from one particularly messy tapioca fight, there may not be one original idea in New in Town. From the gag where the big-city girl strolls into a Midwestern snowstorm wearing high heels to the confrontation she has with a small-town waitress (named Flo, natch), and the happy denouement where the crusty factory foreman pretends to have something in his eye rather than showing an actual shred of emotion, every joke in New in Town feels as if it may have been written decades ago. Yet despite the sinking feeling that we've seen these scenes played out by Hollywood time and again, New in Town still manages to coast far enough on goofy sentiment, fun performances, and good old Middle American virtue to make it virtually cynic-proof. No one is likely to walk out of New in Town feeling like they've been blindsided by anything even remotely inappropriate, offensive, or objectionable, and in a time when comedy seems to be based more on irony and shock value than gentle laughs, New in Town stands apart from the pack as the kind of comfort-food cinema that one would expect to find on the living room television of a snowbound Minnestota family when the weather outside is too treacherous too endure. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan