Review: Katherine Heigl's 'One For The Money' Isn't Worth A Dime

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by Jeff Otto
January 28, 2012 8:41 AM
8 Comments
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"One for the Money" brings Janet Evanovich’s beloved heroine Stephanie Plum to life on screen, a ditzy would-be bounty hunter who succeeds only in endangering the lives of anyone near her and dismissing the intelligence of audiences. Adapted from the 1994 novel of the same name, the story finds the down-on-her-luck Stephanie (Katherine Heigl) in desperate need of money. Out of options, she turns to her sleazeball cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), who runs a bail bond business unoriginally named Vincent Plum’s Bail Bonds. He reluctantly sets her up as a bail recovery agent, figuring she’ll soon tire of the endeavor and find herself a more appropriate line of work. But Plum instead sets her sights on the biggest score, both professionally and personally. Turns out the highest-stake target is a former vice cop wanted for murder who also just happened to leave Ms. Plum high and dry after taking her virginity in high school. Hell hath no fury and blah, blah, blah...

Remember when Katherine Heigl’s career showed so much promise, the engaging “Grey’s Anatomy” breakout star who charmed us opposite Seth Rogen’s pot-smoking schlub in “Knocked Up”? Since then, Heigl has flooded the market with a stream of indistinguishably forgettable rom-coms like “27 Dresses,” “The Ugly Truth” and “Life As We Know It.” We keep hoping for more, but Heigl keeps lowering those expectations. And so it’s hard to keep an open mind heading into a January Heigl release not pre-screened for critics, but we did try. After all, this isn’t simply a rom-com per se and Evanovich’s beloved character makes sense for Heigl, at least on paper. The books have a following, so the film could well launch a franchise of Stephanie Plum’s lighthearted brand of female empowerment. (God help us).

Who would have guessed “One for the Money” could make one long for the tired rom-com material of Heigl days gone by? At least those films made no bones about what they were, paint-by-numbers popcorn chompers tossed into the recycling bin upon theater exit. "One For The Money," directed by Julie Anne Robinson ("The Last Song"), simply has no idea what it is. It’s kind of a rom-com, with enough sickening moments of fruitless flirtation between Heigl and her bounty (played by Jason O’Mara) to tire even the most patient audience members. Their chemistry exists only in the fact that they are both attractive, fit and constantly demonstrating their rock hard abs and/or ample cleavage. Otherwise the film dabbles in thriller territory, sort of an attempt at Elmore Leonard gone “Jersey Shore.” But it’s not smart enough for that.

The first of many problems with 'Money' is the film’s opening, a cutesy title sequence showing bills from collection agencies and threats of eviction. This is as much backstory as we get on Plum’s financial woes. Moments after showing up at her parents' house for dinner in the first scene, her car is towed away and her kooky grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) suggests she go see her cousin Vinnie for a job. She does just that and off we go.

No one’s expecting deep material here, but is it too much to ask that we get to know Stephanie Plum just a bit before we are asked to accompany her on the journey ahead? This is the first movie, right? All we know about this character is that she’s recently divorced and got fired from her job selling lingerie at Macy’s. She doesn’t seem too concerned about her situation, laughing it off as she quips to the audience via an increasingly irritating voiceover. So why should we care? To someone who doesn’t know the character, Stephanie Plum basically seems like little more than an annoying loser. So why is everyone so nice and helpful as she embarks on a career she has no business in? Well, she’s good-looking. We got that. Otherwise we’re basically only staying with Plum because that’s who the damn cameraman keeps following.

The early moments of Plum’s new career are intended to be amusing. She tries to take down Morelli by tracking him down and asking him nicely. She later hits a dangerous and abusive prizefighter named Ramirez (Gavin-Keith Uma) with her purse and nearly winds up getting attacked by a repeated rapist. The one man who inexplicably offers to train her and help her out of jams again and again, Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), even manages to take a bullet saving her ass once again. And even as she starts to figure things out just a bit, Plum continues to put the lives of those around her in danger or worse because of her ignorance. Basically we’re meant to laugh at the fact that cute little Stephanie bumbles her way to getting one informant killed and another savagely beaten and thrown from a moving vehicle. Oh Stephanie, you’re a riot!

Comic relief comes in the form of Plum’s senile grandma, who dizzily pops in and out of scenes offering Stephanie words of advice on life and love. In one of the film’s most predictable moments (of which there are many) grandma plays with Plum’s new gun at the dinner table while the family ignores her and continues chatting. Will she shoot the gun? What a shock when grandma finally plugs the turkey. “She should be in a home,” says Plum’s father. Ha ha.

There weren’t many laughs coming from the theater at Friday morning’s surprisingly well-attended first showing. But the attendance and Heigl’s track record make a strong case for the fact that “One for the Money” will likely fare just fine, possibly even well enough to warrant a franchise. It is what it is. We just hope Heigl herself eventually tires of slumming it as much as critics have tired of watching her do so. [F]

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8 Comments

  • Janet | February 6, 2012 7:43 PMReply

    Have you read any of the Stephanie Plum books? If you had you would know that Stephanie does bumble her way at being a bounty hunter through 18 books. 18!! So there must be a lot of people that think Stephanie is a riot.

  • sp | January 29, 2012 2:55 PMReply

    Jason O’Mara was the only entertaining actor in this movie. He deserves much more than this. Jason has major starpower and charisma.

  • michael van vuuren | January 29, 2012 8:53 AMReply

    there are only 1 or 2 movies that are better than the book they are based on, I have actually seen 4 that immediately come to mind. there are several that do the book justice, seen more than 12 that could fall into this cat, and there are many that just do not measure up along with those that bomb or blow. This movie does the original book justice, I think that Janet E. would be satisfied, the movie is as good as the first book, it really only falls short in the matter that the characters are not extreme enough, over the top enough, ridiculous enough. The Stephanie Plum novels are not the stuff of great books, originality or brilliant plotlines. I usually figure out the plot in 2 to 3 chapters, if that, but it is not why I have read and reread all of the novels and spinoffs. I read them because they are fun read and reread. the over the top everything is what pulls me back time and time again. The cast of this movie hits on some of this, sure they are not great performances but they don't need to be. The "critic" here shows that he has one POV or lens that he applies to everything and isn't worth a dime in his narrow viewed interpretation of what should matter when going to the movies. It seems obvious to me, he did not like the books IF he even bothered to read them, he obviiously has no concept of who is in the Plum fanclub either nor cares. I found this movie enjoyable and distracting. I liked the book better and do believe that the Plum books would be better as a TV series, with more time given to bringing out the characters, perhaps a little better choices on casting, but this IS an interpretation of the book and is subject to the director's vision. I will probably watch the blu-ray when it comes out. It was as good as Tarrentino's Jackie Browne.

  • JenMarie | January 30, 2012 11:03 AM

    Amen!
    Besides, Stephanie doesn't think it's hilarious either that those she spoke to died. I wouldn't consider them her informants. But cops informants do die on occasion. And she was being careful when speaking to them. She didn't tell anyone who she was talking to. She went out for Ramirez with more direction after they were getting hurt. She quit talking to Lula when she realized how sleazy Ramirez was. You can't blame the police for a psychotic killer. You blame the psychotic killer.

  • Factuality | January 28, 2012 7:31 PMReply

    How on Earth would reading the book fix the dozens if not hundreds of flaws with this obvious crapfest?

  • Leowmn | February 5, 2012 4:02 AM

    First of all, I haven't seen this film yet but, I have read this book at least 3 times and loved it. It has a lot of snappy witty comments that make you laugh out loud. I got my daughter interested in these books because she kept hearing me laughing while I was reading them. I would call them campy. Janet E is good at developing her characters and they play off of each other. The mother always ironing when she's stressed or reaching for her bottle in the kitchen when she is even more stressed, the dad eating with his head down and shoveling it in like someone is going to take his food away from him and his obvious impatience with Grandma Mazur - who has, I think, the most personality, and Vinnie who may have had an affair with a duck. Now, on paper, those characters are hilarious. BUT, when I saw the cast I was sure I wouldn't want to see the film. Picturing KH as Stephanie and DR as Grandma Mazur would definitely ruin these books for me. The worst casting I think was Joe, an Italian from Jersey, being played by an Irishman from Ireland. I wasn't happy about Ranger either but, in all honesty I couldn't put my finger on what Ranger would look like. Also one of the reasons I don't think these books can go from the page to the screen. It is much better to imagine these characters in your head.

  • Ctmc11 | January 28, 2012 10:26 AMReply

    Maybe you should read the book. . .

  • Christine | January 28, 2012 5:34 PM

    agreed.

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