New in Town (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jonas Elmer
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 97 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: May 26, 2009
Review Date: May 11, 2009
Renée Zellweger hasn’t had much success with romantic comedies apart from her Bridget Jones films. Down with Love wasn’t well received, and she was the worst thing about last year’s Leatherheads. Now, New in Town finds her in another comedy-by-the-numbers scenario where all her best efforts just can’t bring zest to such a bland, familiar concoction. She and an estimable cast give it the old college try but to no avail.
Sophisticated corporate foods executive Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger) is sent by her firm’s CEO to tiny New Ulm, Minnesota, to see about downsizing the food processing plant there. The rube-esque small town atmosphere and the freezing temperatures take her by surprise as she incurs the scorn of the populace with her smug, superior airs. The union representative Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.) makes negotiations especially trying for the stubborn Lucy, enough so that she begins compiling her list of workers for immediate dismissal. Over time, however, both sides thaw toward one another, and she begins to see the necessity of keeping the plant operating despite corporate’s desire to close the plant altogether. So, it’s up to her to come up with a way to save the plant and the jobs of the friends she has made in Minnesota.
The “fish out of water” screenplay fashioned by Kenneth Rance and C. Jay Cox doesn’t have a single original moment, and director Jonas Elmer has staged several unfunny pratfalls in the ice and snow for Renée Zellweger to juice up the predictable scenario (well, one back flip off a porch is pretty funny). The romance angle is also as certain as Christmas as the two leads begin fighting almost immediately and continue until each can do a good turn for the other. The problem, unfortunately, is that Zellweger and Connick have almost no chemistry together. When your romantic leads don’t set off any fireworks, and the story that surrounds them is as stale as week-old bread, the odds of being able to pull off any kind of successful romantic comedy are pretty much nil. That’s not to say that there isn’t genuine effort expended in trying to make the story work, and kudos for incorporating regional enthusiasm for “scrapping” and ice fishing to at least give the film a somewhat unique personality and flavor. The accents of the area echo the speech patterns and inflections of the cast of Fargo, however, so what might have seemed unusual before that wonderful film now seems a rather tired copycat.
Renée Zellweger is nothing if not game, facing many scenes in the freezing weather (the movie was filmed in Winnipeg, Canada, in temperatures of minus fifty-seven degrees) without benefit of a truly warm wardrobe. She’s not helped by the director or cameraman in the early going with an unduly spiky persona whose lack of warmth takes far longer in the film for an audience to accept (and she’s photographed harshly and rather brazenly, too). Harry Connick, Jr. for his part is more easygoing and less a caricature than the other residents of the region, his best moment coming when he interviews his fourteen year old daughter’s first date. J.K. Simmons has gained an ungodly amount of weight, a full fluffy beard, and a very severe accent to portray the plant foreman Stu Kopenhafer, all to scant laughs. Siobhan Fallon Hogan’s sweet, well-meaning secretary Blanche Gunderson is perhaps a bit overplayed but still emerges as the film’s most open and appealing character. Frances Conroy is wasted in a minor role as Blanche’s culinary rival Trudy Van Uuden.
The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Being such a recent theatrical release, the print used for the transfer is in perfect shape, so there are no problems with scratches or specks. But sharpness is merely good rather than great, and color is just a bit on the drab side though flesh tones come through well enough. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track might not use its available channels with great consistency, but when the actors are present in the middle of a busy factory or they relax and enjoy a game of high school hockey, the sound design makes good use of the surround soundfield. Not much is done with the LFE channel, and John Swihart’s music score is basically given merely stereophonic treatment in the sound design. Still, there are no problems with the recording, and dialog in the center channel is always easily discernible.
The audio commentary features writers Kenneth Rance and C. Jay Cox and actors J.K. Simmons and Siobhan Fallon Hogan all gabbing away engagingly about their experiences of shooting in the frigid Winnipeg. The user has the option of merely listening to the commentary or watching it in a BonusView picture-in-picture video window.
“Making New in Town in Winnipeg, Canada” features the film’s director, actors Zellweger, Connick, Simmons, and Hogan, and both writers describing the problems of filming in the extreme cold and praising one another for their unbelievable endurance. This lasts 18 minutes and is presented in 1080i.
“Pudding’s Delicious Role in New in Town” is a 6-minute tribute to tapioca (which plays a major role in the film’s plot) and focuses especially on the filming of the food fight scene late in the movie. It’s in 1080i.
“The Folk Art of Scrapbooking” is a 7 ¾-minute summary of the current fad of scrapbooking including some examples of the hobby by writer Ken Rance’s wife and other people unconnected to the film but very into this creative outlet. This is also in 1080i.
There are eleven deleted scenes which can be watched in a 15-minute block or individually. All are presented in 1080p.
MoLog/BD-Live is a new interactive interface where users can create personal blogs to share with other users on the internet.
The disc features 1080p trailers for The Forbidden Kingdom and Delta Farce.
A completely innocuous, uninspired romantic comedy, New in Town is distinctly not new, recycling comedy and romance formulas that have been seen in hundreds of previous movies without any inspiration that enlivens or refreshes them.