Theatrical release: 01/27/2012 DVD Date: 05/15/2012
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 91 minutes
Note(s): The screenplay was adapted by Stacy Sherman and Karen Ray from the novel One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.
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Review: I'm guessing that if two people are watching One for the Money together, and actually manage to make it through to the end without realizing they both have something, anything better to do, they will look at each other and say, "Huh?". That's my reaction … though I was watching it alone and didn't have someone to turn to with an appropriately quizzical look on my face.
Adapted from the first of the popular "Stephanie Plum" mysteries by Janet Evanovich, this film is a prime example of why so many viewers believe they could make movies better than the so-called — or self-proclaimed — professionals. Or maybe it really does take talent to make a film this bad.
Let's start with the semi-positives. I haven't read Evanovich's book One for the Money, but have read — or at least started — a few of the later titles in the series. It seems like the screenplay captured the overall plot of the book fairly well and made a reasonable stab at getting the characters right. Most of the comedic elements, whether they be dialog or situation, fall flat — Stephanie says things like, "I want to nail him, but not nail him" — but the story does move along without too many side trips, so there's something to be said for that.
The production has a look and feel straight out of 1970s television network movie-of-the-week-land. Had I been on the committee to decide whether or not to release this film theatrically, I would have voted strongly for either (a) save ourselves some embarrassment and send it direct to DVD, or better still (b) try to recoup some of our money by selling to an unsuspecting cable network and ask that they redact our name from the credits. No one asked me, though, and the film hit theaters anyway earlier this year. I'm not sure how many hours it was there before it was pulled.
The casting isn't terrible, but it isn't inspired either. The male roles seem far better cast than the female roles, maybe because there are more of them and none of the actors are on the screen as much as Katherine Heigl, who seems hopelessly lost in how to play this character. At first I thought she was intentionally playing Stephanie Plum as an insecure, rather clumsy and air-headed woman; I later concluded that she simply didn't know what to do and kind of played it by ear … and quite a bit tone deaf at that. I confess I started at one point to compare Heigl to Kathleen Turner, who was so awful in V. I. Warshawski, based on a character created by Sara Paretsky. Maybe it requires more expertise than the teams behind these films have to take strong female characters from popular crime novels and transfer them to the screen. But I'm no industry professional, so what do I know?
Finally, the big negative: the directing, which is lackluster, lazy even. I'm wondering if the director realized early on that this film couldn't be saved and simply phoned in the direction. There's no energy here. This is the kind of film where you want to root for the girl to nail the guy, as it were, but by the end you simply don't care what happens, just please let it be over.
Sad to say, this film isn't even worth a rental. Which is really too bad, because as much as Hollywood craves a franchise, this is, or could have been, franchisable — not sure that's even a word — material in the right hands.