Ashley Olsen as Jane Ryan
Mary-Kate Olsen as Roxy Ryan
Eugene Levy as Max Lomax
Andy Richter as Bennie Bang
Riley Smith as Jim, The Bike Messenger
Jared Padalecki as Trey Lipton
Drew Pinsky as Dr. Ryan
Darrell Hammond as Hudson McGill
Andrea Martin as Senator Anne Lipton
Alannah Ong as Ma Bang
Mary Bond Davis as Big Shirl
Jack Osbourne as Justin
Joey Klein as Truant at Pool
Neil Crone as Officer Strauss
Jane and Roxy Ryan (Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen) are two very different twin sisters from Long Island, who come into New York City for the day. Jane, an organized overachiever, has to give a speech at Columbia University as part of a competition for a scholarship to Oxford, while Roxy, the troublemaker, wants to crash a video taping for the band A Simple Plan, in order to get her demo CD to record execs. Their plans are confounded by a persistent truant officer (Eugene Levy) and a Chinese piracy ring that chase the girls all over Manhattan, forcing them to put aside their differences in order to get through the day.
Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of the Olsen sisters, nor have I ever been. I used to think they were annoying as hell the few times I had seen them on the television show “Full House” and I intentionally stayed as far away from anything they’ve done as possible since then.
That said, Mary-Kate and Ashley are one of the best things going for this wacky New York romp. Though many will know the Olsens as the annoyingly rich kids that have been everywhere for the last seventeen years, New York Minute shows a different side of them, as they’re starting to grow up and try to reach an older audience. Of course, they’re as cute and charming as they usually are, but they’re also quite good with the comedy, very much like a young Meg Ryan teaming with a young Goldie Hawn. Of course, if you’re expecting Academy Award acting performances, you’re likely to be disappointed, but you have to be impressed with the way they’re not afraid to take chances or do things that might embarrass themselves. Instead of shying away from their growing sexuality, they poke fun of it. Though the two sisters in the movie couldn’t be any more different, it’s hard to not forget that you’re watching twins on screen, because as the movie progresses, they begin to look and act more alike. That be as it may, it’s easy to see why millions of young girls look up to them and relate to them as role models.
The humor tends to be a bit dumb and silly, never trying to get too clever or intellectual, but it’s also perfectly harmless, like Disney’s live action comedies from the 70’s, filtered through the MTV sensibilities of modern teens. The plot will seem familiar to anyone who has seen the classic 80’s movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but they’ve instilled that with a humor closer to something like Charlie’s Angels and Austin Powers, including some cameos that are funny in themselves.
Eugene Levy isn’t nearly at his best as the truant officer who would rather be a tough police officer, but he has a knack for the physical humor and timing needed to bring lots of laughs to a younger audience. He does a decent job of taking on the Jeffrey Jones type role for the movie, and making the most out of what is a pretty one-dimensional character. His bits are the best reason to see the movie.
Director Dennie Gordon (What a Girl Wants) does an impressive job making the movie visually interesting with cool editing and camerawork. She also throws in a number of visual gags that might go over the heads of younger viewers, like the slow motion doves in one sequence. The choice of music is also excellent with lots of cool uptempo rock and punk music, something that should help the Olsens give their image a bit more edge.
The movie has a surprising amount of action, even including a car chase, so the movie rarely gets dull. For the most part, it’s an entertaining movie from beginning to end with only a few weak moments that make your brain hurt.
What Didn’t Work:
And those moments really make your brain hurt. I’m talking Excedrin Headache Level 10. While 60% of the movie is fine and quite fun, the other 40% is beyond painful, especially if you’re a grown-up (i.e. older than 17). This is not the kind of movie that you can go into with very high expectations, and it’s better to just turn your brain off before watching it to make sure that nothing important gets damaged.
When you have a movie with such an amazing comedic cast-Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin from SCTV, Darrell Hammond from “Saturday Night Live” and Andy Richter from “The Conan O’Brian Show”-you can forgive some stupidity, but a lot of these fine actors seem to be phoning it in. Andy Richter’s performance as a limo driver that thinks he’s Chinese is beyond embarrassing, and his scenes are excruciating. Levy and Martin aren’t so bad, but they also aren’t even nearly at their best, and Jack Osbourne should never be allowed to “act” in a movie ever again.
While it might be expected for this kind of movie, the silly plot of the two twins being chased all over New York and falling into all these predicaments is fun at first, but the more characters and subplots introduced into the story, the more ridiculous things get. There are also way too many coincidences used to tie all of the characters together.
Most people seeing this movie will have very little concept of New York City geography, and the reality of how long it would take to travel by bicycle from Harlem down to Chinatown. Most people won’t be bothered by this, but as a New Yorker, I have encountered too many tourists who have no concept of the distance between these places and this movie doesn’t help. Then again, as someone who often has to travel around town, I’d love to get my hands on the Olsens’ magic teleporter.
When the girls get to Harlem-eliciting one of the worst stereotypes of the neighborhood seen in a long time-the scene in the beauty shop drags on for far too long as they try to fix them up with new fashions and hairstyles. It’s the kind of cutesy thing that young girls will probably love, seeing the Olsens in different outfits, but it seemed dumb and unnecessary to the story.
The way that the twins’ sexuality is used in the movie is creepy, at times. While most of the movie is pretty innocent, the interaction with some of the male actors seems a bit lascivious. In one scene, a guy walks into his hotel room to find the twins on his bed in their bathrobes, and his reaction is probably about the same as any young guy who has watched too many beer commercials. Not sure what sort of message that is giving to the young girls who look up the Olsens, but the risqué scene makes for a rather strange intrusion into the movie’s otherwise innocent fun.
The Bottom Line:
New York Minute may indeed be the dumbest movie of the year, and if you go into the movie hating the Olsen girls, don’t expect this to change your mind. If you’re one of the few people with no opinion of them, you might find they’re not so bad, and enjoy this fun, entertaining and sometimes charming movie that rarely lets up. By its very nature, grown-ups are going to hate everything about this madcap comedy, but teen girls and the Olsens’ fans will surely love it!
New York Minute opens on Friday everywhere.