REVIEW: Mind-Blowingly Charmless Katherine Heigl Will Rob You Blind in One for the Money

Movieline Score: 3

One for the Money feels like the forgotten pilot for a TV show that wasn't picked up for series. Watch as Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl), Trenton divorcee-turned-bounty hunter, hunts down bail skippers in her high heels while trying to choose between troubled cop Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara) and badass fellow bond agent Ranger (Daniel Sunjata) -- Tuesdays on USA! Plum is the creation of author Janet Evanovich and the basis of a bestselling 18 novel franchise, and if you squint at this big screen adaptation (directed by Julie Anne Robinson, of The Last Song and episodes of Weeds, Grey's Anatomy, 2 Broke Girls and others) you can make out some of the character's potential appeal -- she's an everywoman who discovers an unexpected talent for a tough gig, an outspoken Jersey girl who refuses to let the fact that she's out of her comfort zone stop her from getting the job done, etc, etc. But as played by Heigl, Stephanie is mind-blowingly charmless, the latest variation of the on-screen persona the actress has mysteriously embraced -- the prissy, once-wronged gal prone to bouts of inconveniently timed clumsiness and acrimonious banter with her eventual love interest.

I don't dislike Heigl on principle, but it's all too easy to call out everything that's gone wrong with the romantic comedy in recent years by way of her filmography. Her characters apparently need to be subjected to a journey of humiliating comeuppance in order to win over/come around to their unlikely loves -- the rom-com as punishment fantasy. Here her hostile Romeo, Morelli (no one refers to him by his first name), is the roguish town heartbreaker who's on the lam after having been charged with murdering Ziggy Kuleska, a local tough involved in some major criminal activity. For Stephanie, Morelli's more serious offense is not calling her back after relieving her of her virginity in the back of a bakery when they were in high school, for which she still bears a grudge. (One for the Money's tendencies to see things like murder only as vexing complications in its protagonist's personal life speaks both to its tonal confusion and to how minor the case around which it's theoretically structured actually is to the film as a whole.) Stephanie will net $50,000 if she can bring the man in, though the first time she finds him she realizes she doesn't actually have a way to do that unless he agrees to come with -- and he insists he's innocent.

Heigl and O'Mara snipe at each other with the sizzling chemistry of two people who can't wait to whip out their BlackBerries and check their email as soon as a take is over. The pair's rictus pantomime of sexual tension is countered by Stephanie's relationship with the hyper-competent and permanently Kevlar-clad Ranger, whom she describes as "Michelangelo's David dipped in caramel," and who serves as an alternate aloof romantic possibility as well as a tutor in the ways of bounty hunting. He's more superhero and plot device than person, but he's at least not burdened with the New Jersey accent Heigl and O'Mara gamely, unsuccessfully attempt. Stephanie is supposed to be earthy and sassy, not qualities Heigl is able to summon, but she's also problematically written as somewhere between active if imperfect heroine and Bella Swan-style object in need of rescuing. She's terrible at what she does, even for a beginner -- a running gag about her having to rummage through her purse for her gun at urgent moments is enough to make you want to bang your forehead on the theater seat in front of you. She gets one person killed and another badly beaten, and she frequently places herself in danger, requiring the intervention of Morelli or Ranger. The tension between the allure of being saved and protected versus the desire to do things oneself is by far the most intriguing part of One for the Money, because the film (which was written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius) has no idea how to balance the two and ends up instead making Stephanie seem like an indulged annoyance.

One for the Money's TV pilot air is furthered by the flat look of the film, and by characters who are introduced largely to have no other purpose, there to be given storylines in some (saints forbid) later installment. Annie Parisse is Mary Lou, the best friend Stephanie always calls for advice; Debbie Reynolds plays Stephanie's loopy grandmother who shoots the roast the rest of the family is eating while fooling around with her granddaughters newly acquired pistol, because accidental domestic gun violence is always good for a laugh. Patrick Fischler is Vinnie, Stephanie's sleazy cousin/boss, and Sherri Shepherd plays Lula, a brassy hooker who offers our aspiring bond agent information. John Leguizamo, Fisher Stevens and Leonardo Nam show up too. Hopefully the masses won't, because there are 17 more of these books just waiting to be dragged, kicking and screaming and rummaging in their purses for their weapons, onto the big screen.

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  • Sounds awful, but at least I know why it's being marketed at people so desperately. Not a big fan of Heigl for the very reasons placed here. Seems like nothings changed in this film. probably going to give it a miss.

  • [...] down United States currency to see One for the Money at an overnight midnight showing. As I read her review at Movieline, it became obvious that an obsessive chat was necessary. (Spoiler alerts, [...]

  • Christine Lightcap says:

    I've been a huge fan of Janet Evanovich for years - always looking forward to the next book in the Stephanie Plum series. Loved #1-17, was disappointed with her very recent Explosive Eighteen. I figured she must have had other things on her mind like "One For The Money" opening in movie theatres Jan. 27. So I couldn't wait. How much $ could Evanovich possibly have gotten to let the writers do what they did to muck up the book. And let whoever cast actors so horrendously unlike the characters she described in every one of her books! NOT ONE WAS EVEN CLOSE! Certainly not Stephanie, not Grandma, Mom, Dad, Lula and good grief - what the frick were they thinking of with Morelli and Ranger??? Arrgghhh!!!

    • SL says:

      I concur with "Lightcap". With all due respect to Debbie Reynolds, I cannot imagine her as Grandma Mazur - were Betty White or Cloris Leachman unavailable? My suggestions for resuscitating this disaster:
      1. Fire the casting agency and hire a new one (preferably from NYC or NJ area). Hollywood cannot do "the Burg"

      2. Evanovich's characters grew with each book.Make the next movie by combining the stories from multiple books in the series (in chronological order. This will give the actors the opportunity to flesh out the characters more fully and portray them.

      3. Start the next movie with an entirely new cast. It makes me gag when I think of Jason O'Mara as Morelli or Heigl as Plum and lets not even discuss whoeevr it is who played Ranger. Which leads me back to the my first point - fire the casting agency - and drum them out of the business.

  • cerreno says:

    whatever... its not Hiegl's fault that the writers created this character for her. I liked 27 dresses and knocked up. The ugly truth and life as we know it were kinda dumb so there is some truth in the review. but whatever. its katie hiegl people will watch the movie regardless.

  • Max Renn says:

    All the nasty characters in her movies play Katherine Heigl.

  • KevyB says:

    I quite liked the phrase "Mind-Blowingly Charmless Katherine Heigl" except for the fact that it hasn't been used for everything she's ever done! How about making that her official title?

  • Kat says:

    Alison - The "cons" of the film you point out in your review are what make the books so funny: the fumbling for the gun, continually losing the handcuffs, letting personal issues take precedence over the apprehension of the bounty, etc. Since the books are hilarious, I can only assume its in the execution that the film fails so miserably. Or maybe the charm of Evanovich's tales are better sampled on the page than the screen.

    I thought Heigl was a terrific choice for Plum when I first heard of this movie. For better or worse, I'm going to check it out, see if it's as dreadful as you and other reviews claim. If "Two for the Dough" gets made, let it be known I only bought a matinee-priced ticket!

  • Cameron says:

    Further proof, as if it were needed, that women should never be allowed to write or direct movies. They currently have a success rate of one good film in every thousand, and yes I'm including the lesbians.

    You think I'm wrong? Quickly, name me three classic films written and directed by women. 1...2...3...Go!

  • Cameron says:

    Struggling? Ok, I'll start you off. Bridesmaids. Now name me two more...

  • Cameron says:

    Oops, sorry, Bridesmaids was directed by a guy, so I take that one back. You still owe me three...

    • The Cantankerist says:

      Yeah, I hate it when them wimmens get all uppity and try t' make fillums. Useless junk like "My Brilliant Career", "Lost In Translation", "Beau Travail", "The Piano", "The Kids Are All Right", "Monster" an' all that. They jus' get in th' way of ma cowboy fillums! And COMIC-BOOK FILLUMS! Whoo-HOOOO!

      • Suzanne says:

        You forgot The Hurt Locker, you know, that movie that was all about hair-brushing, menstruation, and how the director's boyfriend never calls her. I think it won some prize somewhere. Maybe from Cosmo?

      • Butters says:

        No offense but, the Piano was horrid, and Monster did not tell the full story and omitted the fact that she recanted her statement about being raped. But I will add to your list the following: Hurt Locker, Big, and Prince of Tides

        • The Cantankerist says:

          Don't really care re Monster - it's not a documentary. Wonderful Theron performance. On The Piano I disagree with you entirely; lyrical film with, yes, some troubling & disturbing themes, but that doesn't add up to "horrid" for me, especially not when the film itself is so elegantly and distinctively made.

          Prince Of Tides was a deliberate omission; I don't think Streisand has ever really delivered as a writer/director, and if I were to pick one it wouldn't be that one. The Hurt Locker is entirely male-written, so doesn't qualify for this list. Big I'll gladly add, ta.

          But it's kinda not the point. The original troll, ready to denigrate female writers & directors with "less than one in a thousand" abuse, inadvertently points to the real problem: there haven't BEEN a thousand. Not through the major studios. I don't think that's the fault of female writers and directors. I think that's the fault of male boards and executives.

  • The Cantankerist says:

    Btw: "And yes I'm including the lesbians"?

    Best redneck self-scar ever. Though you should've capitalised Lesbians. And possibly hiccupped.