New in Town, Harry Connick Jr., Renee Zellweger

Rebecca Sandulak/Lionsgate

Review in a Hurry: A recessionary romantic comedy pits downsizing exec Renée Zellweger against union man Harry Connick Jr. in the wilds of Minnesota, but the script is sleeping on the job.

The Bigger Picture: Miami-based rising corporate star (Zellweger) gets dispatched to the cold and snowy wastes of New Ulm, Minn., where she's tasked with cutting the workforce in half. She wants to make vice president more than she wants to make friends, so she alienates the locals—union head (Connick), foreman (J.K. Simmons), secretary (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) and more. But she comes to love plucky little New Ulm, of course, even as corporate decides to close the plant entirely.

Setting a labor-management love story in the frosty "yeah, you betcha" Fargo-style heartland isn't the worst idea for a comedy, but the execution here is frozen solid. New in Town thinks Zellweger falling down is the height of hilarity, or asks us to believe that her self-starting go-getter is smart enough to be a rising star at Miami headquarters but not smart enough to read a weather report before landing in Minnesota.

Fallon Hogan and Simmons get some nice moments as rough-but-real working-class people, while Connick struggles with a standard-issue romantic comedy backstory—he's a hunky widower and struggling dad who can't help but fall for this wacky woman from Miami even though he knows he shouldn't.

Almost everything in the film is that tired and cliché, as Danish director Jonas Elmer makes a graceless English-language debut. Credited here alongside Ken Rance, writer C. Jay Cox explored similar territory in Reese Witherspoon's far better Sweet Home Alabama.

Zellweger tries to play the fish out of water, but New in Town's script leaves everyone gasping for air.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Connick may not be given much, but he makes the best of it through deft comic timing and the right kind of old-fashioned movie-star charisma. And when Zellweger's not toppling over in the name of a cheap giggle, she manages some nice chemistry with her cast.

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