Review by Dustin Putman
1½ stars out of 4
Considering the billion-dollar empire they have created for themselves
and their widespread success in the direct-to-video market, it is
bizarre that 17-year-old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen haven't
had a theatrically released feature film s ince 1995's winning "It
Takes Two." They had nine years to find just the right next project.
They should have looked harder. "New York Minute," directed by Dennie
Gordon (2003's "What a Girl Wants"), wastes the talents of an eclectic
cast in a terminally lame teen comedy with a grade-school mentality.
While it is true that the bulk of the Olsen's fanbase are probably
preteens, the Olsen's themselves are simply too old now to be participating
in such childish, dim-witted antics as "New York Minute" has to offer.
Long Islanders Roxy (Mary-Kate Olsen) and Jane Ryan (Ashley Olsen)
may be twins, but they are as outwardly different as night and day.
While Jane is a prim, proper, straight-A student hoping to snag a
scholarship to Oxford University, Roxy is the hardcore drummer of
an aspiring rock band and repeated skipper of school. With Jane scheduled
to give a speech that will decide the fate of her college c areer
and Roxy determined to get her demo CD to punk band Simple Plan while
they shoot a music video, the two of them are forced to travel together
into Manhattan for the day.
"New York Minute" has too many thankless subplots that go nowhere,
too many characters for any of them to make an impression, and too
much forced slapstick that gets in the way of the movie's heartfelt
core relationship between estranged sisters Roxy and Jane. To want
viewers to draw a comparison to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which
all involved seem to intend, is plainly offensive toward that durable
and incendiary 1986 teenage classic. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was
genuinely clever, hilarious, original, and achingly real—adjectives
that will undoubtedly never be used to describe this half-hearted knockoff.
Instead, "New York Minute" is 85 minutes of painfully lame comedy
and lugubrious action surrounding a single great scene near the end
of the second act, in which Roxy and Jane experience a heated confrontation
about their long-simmering resentment toward each other on the streets
of Times Square. At that moment, all of the film's barriers—its annoyingly
unfunny faux-humor; its ridiculous, gimmick-ridden plotting; its low-rent
car chases and fight scenes—come crashing down for a quiet, truthful
five-minute interlude that makes you actually care about and sympathize
with these two characters.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are charming performers and they make an
effortless transition to the big screen regardless of the poor material
(special kudos for playing two distinct characters whom the viewer
never confuses), but it is this aforementioned dramatic scene that
really showcases just how capable they are of hitting home real emotions.
It is too bad, then, that the picture promptly resumes its immaturity
directly afterward, pleasing 10-year-olds and no one else in the process.
To add insult to injury, any movie that squanders so recklessly the
comic talents of Eugene Levy (2003's "A Mighty Wind") deserves to
be lead out into the woods and shot. Levy is funny by nature, so the
fact that he doesn't garner one laugh in his role as truant officer
Lomax (a pale imitation of Jeffrey Jones' Principal Rooney in "Ferris
Bueller") is frankly absurd. In supporting roles, Andy Richter (2003's
"My Boss's Daughter") is awful in the most patience-testing subplot
(involving the microchip of pirated software), while Jared Padalecki
(2003's "Cheaper by the Dozen") and Riley Smith (1978's "Eight Legged
Freaks") are Roxy and Jane's undernourished, too-old-for-them love interests.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have sold themselves way short with "New
York Minute." They are clearly bright, savvy young women and have
undeniable screen presence. They could have branched out with this
transitional career move and proven that they are more than just pretty
faces who make lowest-common-denominator 'tween fare. Regrettably,
"New York Minute" is content to be dumb, condescending, and cut off
from the reality of what it is really like to be a teenager on the
verge of adultho od. It could have been so much more.
Copyright © 2004 Dustin Putman