Janet Evanovich struck gold in the literary world back in 1994, when she penned the first novel in her mega-popular Stephanie Plum series. Ever since then, Hollywood has been trying to replicate her success (and the accompanying payday) by bring Plum to the big screen. With that long journey in mind, it’s extra-disappointing that this is the best they had to offer.
‘One For the Money’ (PG-13) is, hopefully, the last we’ll see of this unfortunate adaptation. The story follows born-and-bred Jersey girl Stephanie Plum, divorced, unemployed, and out of luck save for her incredibly fortunate name, which seems custom-made for a Jersey movie heroine. When her family urges her to take a job working at her sleazy cousin’s bail bond business, she sets her sights on ex-cop Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a jumper with a $500,000 bond—and an old flame who dumped Plum in high school. Along the way, she picks up some minor jumpers and starts a possible romance with fellow bondsman Ranger (Daniel Sunjata).
It sounds like every other mindless rom-com that plays at the theatre, but it manages to be exceptionally awful. Most of the blame can be laid at the feet of Katherine Heigl. With few exceptions, she plays characters that are incompetent, abrasive, and horribly unlikeable. The most two-dimensional character imaginable somehow becomes even more bland and lifeless in her whiny grip. In real life, she’s not much better—shrill and narcissistic are two adjectives that I think she has tattooed somewhere on her body—and the overall package that is Ms. Heigl is so thoroughly off-putting, it’s a wonder she can land a script.
If that sounds harsh, consider the rest of the movie. It’s got low-budget production, a low-budget director (Julie Ann Robinson), and a low-budget supporting cast. The entire movie looks and feels like a rather ill-conceived TV movie—maybe something that would play on the Lifetime channel. Yet a more winning actress might have been able to imbue Plum with a bit of spark and wit, a glimmer of liveliness, and some sort of personality that wouldn’t make you want to handcuff her to her own car. Then again, a more winning actress would probably have turned up her nose at this hot mess.
As for the script, it manages to thoroughly trample Evanovich’s novel into a blasé compilation of cliches, flat humor, and blindingly red herrings. What should pass for witty, sexy banter feels forced. And almost everything in the movie—from Heigl’s mangled “accent” to what passes for local “character” and “flavor”–feels offensively stereotypical, right down to Plum’s family. Think ‘Jersey Shore’, family-style, and turned into a wannabe romantic comedy. It’s amazing just how colorless these “colorful” characters really manage to be over the course of the nearly two-hour running time.
All through the film, Plum shows us that she can’t shoot, can’t feed herself, can’t track down her FTAs, and basically can’t do anything other than…ah, yes, be helpless. Wait for Morelli and Ranger to come and get her out of one jam or another. Maybe that’s the most offensive thing about this movie: it took a sassy and silly character, beloved by millions, and turned her into yet another helpless damsel waiting for a hot man with a glistening six-pack to make everything right in her life. For fans who bought tickets hoping to see an independent woman juggle bail-jumpers and two complicated romances, this movie has to be a huge letdown, even by the stands of lash-fluttering romantic comedies (and goodness knows they don’t set the bar very high to begin with). By the ending—which, by the way, is groan-inducing—Plum isn’t independent, sassy, or likeable at all; she’s just another cardboard character propped feebly up by the man who will swoop in and rescue her.
If you want to watch a rom-com about bounty hunters, try the Jennifer Aniston-Gerard Butler pairing ‘The Bounty Hunter’. It’s at least got better stars, better chemistry, and a handful of jokes to make you smile (and, yes, it has hotter leads). But whatever you do, for Jersey’s sake, spare yourself this disaster of a movie. It’s not even worth a matinee ticket.