Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen hit the big screen for the second time in New York Minute, directed by Dennie Gordon of What A Girl Wants fame and written by newcomer Emily Fox. While the movie has some funny parts (mainly the comic relief elements featuring Darrell Hammond and Andy Richter), you'll really have to suspend your disbelief to think that any of this movie's twists and fiascos could ever happen—starting with the premise that the girls are wanted by a Chinese family that makes its money in pirated music and movies.
Oh, and, like, the dialogue is, like, totally unbelievable.
Minute begins by shedding some light on the extreme differences between twin sisters Jane (Ashley) and Roxy Ryan (Mary-Kate). Jane is anal: she's attached to her Day Planner and uses several seat covers on the toilet in her own bathroom. Roxy, however, ditches school with hand-made excuse forms, has truant officer Max Lomax (Eugene Levy) on her tail, and dreams of a big break for her band in which she plays drums. But Roxy can't seem to catch a break from Jane, even asking her, "Why do you insist on playing Mom?" in response to Jane's need to hold the family together after their mother's death. Needless to say, the twins don't really get along in this Parent Trap wannabe.
The film's story takes place over the course of one day. After their rocky morning (the norm for this household, we are led to believe), Jane and Roxy head to Manhattan on a commuter train. Jane is scheduled to give a speech at Columbia University for a chance to win a scholarship to Oxford University. Roxy is ditching school to see a Simple Plan video shoot. En route, they're both kicked off the train for lack of tickets, then a Chinese man secretly drops a computer chip into Roxy's purse—to avoid handing the chip over to the Feds (of course). And the chaos begins. Enter Bennie Bang (Andy Richter), the "number one adopted son" of Ma Bang and an obvious white man who speaks with a fake Chinese accent. Bennie saw the Chip Incident, and offers the girls a ride to NYC in his limo.
In NYC, the girls discover that Bennie is a Bad Guy after all, and they flee—into a series of predicaments as they're pursued by both Bennie and Lomax. Bennie finds Jane's Day Planner, which contains her perfectly prepared speech and all of her money; both girls meet love interests along the way; and all the while, Jane needs to get to Columbia for her speech and Roxy wants to go to the video shoot to hand out demos of her band's CD. Add to the mixture that the film moves faster than a New York minute and asks you to believe in its absurd, crisis-ridden storyline; it's no wonder I felt a bit overwhelmed. The movie needs a rewrite and some Ritalin.
After traipsing through the sewer system to escape Bang and Lomax, the twins eventually end up at Big Shirl's (Mary Bond Davis) House of Bling. The scene, one of the film's highlights, successfully blends several stereotypes (anal, scared white girls meet cool, casual black hairdressers) and results with "sisters" who are "sistahs." Along with big hair and big clothes, Big Shirl dishes up some big wisdom regarding the twins' circumstances: "It's the curveballs that make life interesting." Big Shirl then sends the girls on their way, and the story continues to spiral out of control toward its neatly packaged ending.
Despite the hectic pace, there are some moral themes. Screenwriter Fox stresses the importance of family and of respecting one another's differences. At one point, Roxy tells Jane that Mom used to be proud of Roxy's individualistic personality, but Jane sees it as a problem to be fixed. Stretch the theme a bit, and you could come away with a movie that encourages you to honor yourself.
Though just 17, the Olsens are seasoned acting veterans. Minute isn't really a good movie, but their performances are sufficient to display their professionalism and charisma. (The twins not only act in this film, but also gained producer credits.)
New York Minute will resonate with the very tweens who carry the Olsens' billion-dollar franchise (straight-to-video movies, make-up, clothing, toys), but not with many others. Most will likely be checking their watches, probably wishing this Minute were gone in 60 seconds.Discussion starters
- Jane and Roxy have distinct differences. What are the differences between members of your family? How can differences be good? (See 1 Cor. 12:12-30.)
- Do you agree with Big Shirl's platitude, "It's the curveballs that make life interesting"? What does she mean? What curveballs have you been thrown lately?
- Parents don't have a huge part in this movie. The twins' father is an on-the-call doctor and their mother has passed away. How do these circumstances affect Jane and Roxy? How is your family similar or different from this movie family?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
The rating's "Mild Sensuality" comes from a few scenes in which Jane and Roxy run around New York City in hotel bathrobes (one scene implies that Jane loses her robe). Other elements of sensuality stem from some scenes and dialogue between the girls and their respective love interests. But compared to other teen movies, Minute plays like a Disney cartoon.
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros.
Jane and Roxy Ryan (Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen) are two 17-year-old sisters who travel from Long Island to New York so Jane can give a speech that will qualify her for a college scholarship. Roxy tags along so she can go behind the scenes at the site of a music video shoot for the punk band she loves. But their plans fall apart when Jane's day planner gets lost and, while trying to get it back, they find themselves dealing with criminals and engaging in criminal behavior of their own.
Mainstream critics reject the film primarily because it's just not very funny. But it's primarily the glorification of criminal and immature behavior—the "end justifies the means" mentality of the film—that earns the film a thumbs' down with religious press critics. Further, some sexually suggestive content disappoints those who have a soft spot for the spunky teen actresses.
Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says, "Parents are likely to assume that this film is as innocuous as the girls' childish videos. This would be a mistake. One can't help but wonder if the girls are pandering to a growing male audience by appearing in nothing but towels during several extended scenes in this film. They also throw their hair in slow-motion shots that look like they could be pornography, especially in their sexy state of undress. So … [it] represents a disturbing trend in entertainment for children—one that portrays young women as sex objects." She also notes positive messages about "accepting differences" and perseverance, but cautions against the film's suggestion that the end justifies the means.
Steven Isaac (Plugged In) says, "This is a film that keeps things relatively clean in all the obvious categories, but runs amok everywhere else. Jane and Roxy don't swear up a storm; they don't have sex; they don't do drugs; they don't kill anybody. But they do go to great lengths to point their adoring tween fan base in quite a few wrong directions. Add to all that the fact that New York Minute is corny beyond all reasonable expectations."
Mary Lasse (CT Movies) says, "New York Minute will resonate with the very tweens who carry the Olsens' billion-dollar franchise … but not with many others. Most will likely be checking their watches, probably wishing this Minute were gone in 60 seconds."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says of the twins, "While not great actresses, they do manage to project a certain earnestness or sincerity. Their image is more sassy than sexy, which I'm sure is welcomed by the parents of the legion of loyal pre-teen Olsen fans.
New York Minute is an innocuous, superficial romp. The 90 minutes pass quickly and painlessly and, on more than one occasion, generates a smile or two."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls it a "frothy but forgettable movie [that] imparts a positive, family-friendly message. And while no one will mistake its screwball silliness for great—or even good—filmmaking, compared to the harder-edged fare being force-fed to young viewers, most parents would take this kind of fresh-scrubbed fluff in a New York minute."
Ken Goding (Christian Spotlight) says the movie "makes the twins … heroines who will do anything to achieve their goals, whether or not it is morally right." He adds, "As a male, I am deeply troubled by Jane in a towel." He concludes by gauging the violence ("Fairly mild and somewhat comic,") the profanity ("Mild"), and the sex/nudity ("Revealing and thought provoking for guys").
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