Lucy Hill is new in town, all right.
In the romantic workplace comedy, New in Town, Lucy (Renee Zellweger), an executive from sunny Miami, has relocated to rural Minnesota temporarily. Her job is to oversee the streamlining of her corporation’s food-manufacturing production plant in New Ulm, where she feels like she’s freezing to death most of the time.
Dealing with the harsh climate (the film’s working title was: Chilled in Miami) isn’t the only problem that Lucy faces. She also gets a chilly reception from the locals — who find her privileged and affected, and make her the butt of practical jokes. And there's Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.), the union rep, a firefighter and single dad, who distrusts her because he fears that she’s going to lay off workers.
But just when she gets comfortable with her snowy surroundings and starts to form attachments — especially with Ted and his daughter — things turn dire for the blue-collar residents of New Ulm. Lucy’s boss tells her that the company is shutting down the plant. Her conflicting loyalties start tugging at her.
New in Town is formulaic and its ending is pat. But Danish director Jonas Elmer does a creditable job establishing the wintry setting — this movie makes you shiver — and orchestrating sight gags, many of them playing off the frigid conditions. These will especially entertain grandkids, while grandparents should appreciate the theme, resonant of late: economic upheaval and corporate ruthlessness versus community values.
Zellweger is slightly miscast, but indulges the penchant for physical comedy she displayed in Nurse Betty and the Bridget Jones flicks, and Connick gives a relaxed reading in his lead role. Siobhan Fallon Hogan as the matchmaking secretary and J.K. Simmons as the pugnacious plant foreman do the heavy comedy lifting — delightfully.
New in Town has a modest, chilly charm, but charm it still is, even if there are gaps in the screenplay that smack of post-production fiddling. Apparently, like the company on display, the film has been downsized.
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