There are plenty of horror movies crowding screens in this long bleak winter, though none of them can match the unadulterated terror of seeing what's happened to poor Renee Zellweger. The once adorable actress is pushin' 40 with a wheelbarrow, and consequently her face has apparently been Botoxed within a millimeter of rigor mortis. This cosmetic nightmare leaves Zellweger's visage with all the expressive range of a Kabuki mask, yet her busted lid haunts nearly every frame of this alleged comedy, as she tries to contort her frozen features into a variety of emotions, but manages only a freakish squint.
This soggy lutefisk out-of-water tale finds Zellweger's spunky corporate shark Lucy exiled from Miami to dinky, snow-bound New Ulm, Minn., where she's hired to "modernize" a dairy processing plant, mainly through downsizing the workforce. The quirky townsfolk are on to her true intentions, but they're such sweater-clad, "Minnesota nice" church folk that they attempt to extend a congenial mitten of friendship before stabbing her in the back.
Cheerful town gossip Blanche (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) even invites Lucy over for a bit of meatloaf and matchmaking with snowplow-driving roughneck Ted (Harry Connick Jr., looking dumpy). They clash, of course, especially because he's the local union rep. But faster than you can say cliché, the two begin sucking face like two carp fighting for the same corn bit at river bottom.
Don'tcha know that uptight Lucy is seduced by the nonexistent charms of this frosty burg, even though the locals are either buffoonish caricatures or drunken louts, like the slobby shop foreman embarrassingly overplayed by the usually entertaining J.K. Simmons. Together Lucy and gang plan an end-around on the suits to save the factory, in what amounts to a sort of recession fable meant to be heartwarming, but feels condescending and cynical. With a plot lifted from The Pajama Game, Local Hero and about every other rom-com ever made, New feels hopelessly old, hopelessly tired. Does New in Town suck? You betcha!
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.