A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this clichéd romantic comedy has some charm but relies heavily on broad stereotypes -- the driven career woman who melts for the right guy, gee-whiz Midwesterners with Fargo accents, etc. -- for its humor. And its message is an unsurprising one about learning to appreciate more of life. Expect some relatively mild swearing (including "s--t"), a few scenes with drinking (including one in which the main character gets drunk), and some kissing and sexual innuendo (mentions of a woman's nipples and thong, for example), but no nudity or violence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Miami food exec Lucy Hill (Renne Zellweger) wants a vice presidency job so bad she can taste it. Which explains why she volunteers to help streamline her firm's manufacturing plant in the town of New Ulm, Minn. -- an undertaking that could take months (during winter, to boot). Lucy's all business when she first arrives; the workers are suspicious, and an early run-in with handsome union rep Ted (Harry Connick Jr.) goes awry. But her walls inevitably topple in the face of her assistant's relentless cheeriness, and before long Lucy's grown attached to her employees and neighbors, especially Ted ... just in time for her to discover that her boss wants to shutter the factory for good.
Is it any good?
Don't be surprised if you're overwhelmed by deja vu while watching NEW IN TOWN, because it isn't fresh at all, title notwithstanding. It resembles almost every other fish-out-of-water romantic comedy -- with a dash of Northern Exposure thrown in -- and doesn't do much to move the genre forward. Girl meets boy, who's her polar opposite. Girl hates boy, and vice versa. Girl and boy get to see each other's tender side via predictable plot point. Girl and boy fall in love. Monkey wrench appears; relationship seems doomed. But, naturally, girl and boy work it out.
Still, despite its predictability, the film does have some charm. The cast gels well, thanks in no small part to the presence of veterans like Frances Conroy and J.K. Simmons. More importantly, the two leads do have strong chemistry, and Zellweger exudes such warmth that you can't help but like her. Or at least you can't help wanting to like her, even when she does patently foolish things -- wearing a suit jacket in the middle of a Minnesota winter, for instance -- that seem more like clichhd storytelling than anything else. New in Town isn't particularly revolutionary nor memorable, but it does get points for trying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's OK to play stereotypes -- whether of people or locations -- for laughs. How does the movie portray women and people from small-town Minnesota? Is it accurate or exaggerated? Can you think of movies with stronger positive female role models? Families can also discuss why so many Hollywood romantic comedies are about opposites attracting. Do you think relationships like that are as frequent (and as successful) in real life?