New York Minute
2004Director: Dennie Gordon
Cast: The Olsen Twins
f there are some movies that are worth checking out because they’re “unintentionally funny” (say, From Justin to Kelly), then New York Minute, the Olsen twins’ theatrical (their filmography constitutes a hefty straight-to-video catalogue) vehicle, might best be recommended as a movie that’s “unintentionally interesting.” Viewed strictly as the comedy it was made to be, it’s not very much fun, nor for that matter, especially funny, intentionally or otherwise. But for anyone with a healthy amount of interest in sociology, pop culture, or, best yet, some inextricable combination of the two, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of pop-cult curiosities. Imagine, for a second, if life as you know and live it were reduced to an hour-long program on E!, and you have, in a nutshell, the attraction of New York Minute.
The film and its teenage stars are never less than self-conscious and eager to please. Though director Dennie Gordon and screenwriters Emily Fox, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage try and disguise Mary-Kate and Ashley as something other than their famous, self-made millionaire selves, the attempt is futile and fruitless; New York Minute proves funniest when it lets itself in on the joke, such as when a passerby on the street shouts out something about “Paris and Nicky” or when, running through Manhattan—Ashley clad in a bath robe, Mary-Kate in merely a towel—they run past none other than…Bob Saget. Even their characters are exaggerated variations on their real-life personas: Ashley is Jane Ryan, the dainty priss, whose conservative nature is represented hilariously by a George W. Bush bobblehead doll on her shelf and picture framed on her wall of her posing with the Governator himself; Ashley plays her sister, Roxy, the punk rock chick who mopes around in an old Metallica t-shirt and skips school to attend a Simple Plan video shoot.
One of these people is not related to the other two. And one of these people hasn’t been to rehab. Try to guess which is which!
The strangest casting, though, is reserved for the film’s supporting male roles. Eugene Levy plays, in a performance worthy of Christopher Walken in terms of sheer camp conviction, the obsessed truant officer, modeled not so subtly on Jeffrey Jones’ principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—the premise of which the film subsequently “borrows,” as well. For utterly inexplicable reasons, Andy Richter is cast as a pseudo-Chinese (!) cab driver trying to regain possession of a tiny chip containing illegal music, slipped, by its original carrier, into Mary-Kate’s bag just before he’s busted by the cops. His performance and character had me scratching my head every time Richter appeared on screen. In the smaller part of one of Roxy’s friends, Jack Osbourne appears (though, of course, not “as Jack Osbourne”). Why? Well, answer me this: Why do Jane and Roxy make a lengthy side-trip, on their odyssey through the city, to an all-black salon called The House of Bling, at which point they get down and model various outfits? Who the hell knows?
That could easily be this movie’s mantra. It does what it wants to do often for no better reason than that it can. Part of this lack of coherence might be attributable to the multiple author citation for the screenplay. A little bit of everything is thrown in to get laughs. After escaping the clutches of Richter’s character, Jane and Roxy sneak into a room at the Plaza. This room just happens to belong to a senator Jane admires. She happens to have a little dog. That little dog happens to eat the chip. Frantic hijinks ensue. But laughter, for the most part, doesn’t. The convoluted plot is far from seamless in its execution; which is to say, the result isn’t exactly Mulholland Drive.
Ashley and Mary Kate at the House of Bling
In a year of superior teen movies (Mean Girls, Napoleon Dynamite, Saved!), New York Minute isn’t one of them. It’s not exactly a bad film per se, but, even if interesting on some odd level, it’d definitely be a stretch to call it a good one. Mary-Kate and Ashley do have potential, though—or at least charisma, which is just as good—so don’t count them out yet. If they do indeed want to be actresses and not just pop-cult icons (which certainly hasn’t hurt their bankbooks any), they need to find a project with the ability to actually transcend their personas rather than clumsily trying to work around them the way New York Minute does.
By: Josh Timmermann
Published on: 2004-08-27