What’s the trouble with Katherine Heigl? Since she co-starred with Seth Rogen in the 2007 hit Knocked Up, the beamish former star of television’s Grey’s Anatomy has worked to establish herself on the big screen. Her choice has been a series of romantic comedies – The Ugly Truth, 27 Dresses – or with romantic-comedy elements, such as Killers and Life as We Know It.
To some degree she’s succeeded. She’s now one of a small pool of lead actresses – Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman – who regularly land romantic comedy roles, vying to succeed Julia Roberts as America’s big-screen sweetheart. The problem is, in an already patchy genre, she seems particularly susceptible to choosing weak scripts and journeyman directors.
She’s not just a star but a producer on One for the Money, based on a book by New Jersey author Janet Evanovich that came out way back in 1994, when it was first optioned for a Hollywood movie. The novel was the first of 18 best-selling novels (and several spinoffs) featuring her chipper, working-class heroine Stephanie Plum, a former lingerie sales manager turned bail-enforcement agent.
The film, with its Joisey accents and Trenton locale, seems primed to cash in on the current vogue of such reality shows as Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Heigl, looking only moderately deglamorized with dyed-brown hair, is reasonably plausible as a young woman whose life has not quite turned out as she expected. Divorced, unemployed, facing eviction and with her car recently repossessed, plucky Stephanie settles for a filing job with her sleazy cousin Vinnie of Vinnie’s Bail Bonds.
Instead, she ends up as a bail-enforcement agent. Her first case is to track down the lanky, handsome vice cop Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara, a blue-eyed Irishman in the Aidan Quinn mould), who is wanted for the murder of a drug dealer. Coincidentally, he’s the guy she lost her virginity to when she was a teenager, and later ran over with her car when he failed to call her.
After an initial encounter in which she easily corners Joe, she gets distracted by his erotic come-on and he escapes. She enlists another agent, a protective Hispanic hunk named Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), to help track Joe down again. Again, pursuit and capture prove childishly easy, since Joe has remained in town, trying to clear his name. Back-and-forth cat-and-mouse games are occasionally peppered with contrived sexual naughtiness, including a scene when he handcuffs her, naked, in her shower.
Sound fun? Not really. Listlessly directed by Julie Anne Robinson (Miley Cyrus’s The Last Song) from a script written by a trio of writers (Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius), One for the Money is tepidly glib throughout. Even violent murders are followed by wisecracks or another prurient opportunity to ogle Heigl’s behind and cleavage. Intermittently, we are introduced to broadly drawn comic characters, including The View’s Sherri Shepherd as a garrulous prostitute and Debbie Reynolds as Stephanie’s stereotypically eccentric and inappropriate grandmother.
If One for the Money can draw the audience of Heigl’s fans and Evanovich’s readership, it could be the beginning of something the movies are missing – a feminine comic franchise. But given the dreary quality of this first effort, a sequel seems a long shot.
One for the Money
- Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
- Written by Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius
- Starring Katherine Heigl and Jason O’Mara
- Classification: PG
- 1 star