Friday, January 27, 2012

‘One for the Money’ is surprisingly entertaining

(Note: There will be general movie discussion – no big spoilers, though)

It exceeded my expectations.

What else can I say? ‘One for the Money’ was better than I thought it would be.

I didn’t think it was going to be bad per se. I should put that out there right now. But I wasn’t sure how good it would ultimately be.

I mean, I love the books. Well, let me clarify that statement. I love the first 12 books. After that, I liked two of the books. After that, well, let’s just say the book series is sinking fast. But that’s another topic altogether.

I had high expectations when I heard they were making a movie based on ‘One for the Money’ – the first book in Janet Evanovich’s ultra-popular Stephanie Plum series. Then the casting choices started being announced.

When ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ alum Katherine Heigl was unveiled as Stephanie, I was unsure about the choice. Then, when I thought about it, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather have in the role. Ultimately, when I saw pictures of Heigl with dark hair on the set – essentially I was sold.

After all, Heigl is likeable, charming and self-deprecating. She fit the Stephanie character perfectly. So how was she in the movie? Actually, she was pretty spot-on. They did a great job with her wild hair and, while Heigl is a little taller than I always pictured Stephanie, she did capture the clumsy and likeable heroine with her gestures, smile, heart and determination. I don’t think she could have done any better in the role.

What’s great about Heigl is that she doesn’t look anorexic. She’s a solid woman who still has an outstanding body. Since Stephanie is a bond enforcement agent who throws herself on fugitives from time to time – you had to be able to believe the actress in the role. Some 98-pound waif wasn’t going to cut it. Heigl doesn’t have that problem. She’s solid and yet still sexy – just like the book Stephanie.

Other solid casting choices were Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur, Sherri Shepherd as hooker Lula and Debra Monk as Stephanie’s long-suffering mother. The trio of ladies managed to embody their book counterparts with aplomb – even if Reynolds is a bit thicker than the Grandma Mazur in the books.

The casting choice I was most worried about was Jason O’Mara as the very Italian Joe Morelli – one of Stephanie’s love interests in the book. The only thing I had ever seen O’Mara in were guest shots on procedurals – so I wasn’t sure he could carry off Morelli.

Well, I’m here to officially announce I was wrong. O’Mara still doesn’t look like the tall and angular book Morelli – but he has the fiery temper and sly grin (and he looks pretty good with his shirt off) that Morelli always displayed in the books. It helps that he and Heigl have mad chemistry – because that helps sell the relationship. The duo looked like they wanted to jump each other from the beginning.

Even the king of suck, John Leguizamo, can't ruin the movie's fun factor.  He's not going to win an Oscar for his role, but he certainly doesn't distract the audience with his usual overacting either.

The other casting choice I was really worried about was Daniel Sunjata as Ranger. I didn’t think he even remotely looked like the Ranger in the book. Here’s the thing, I was right about Sunjata. He’s not book Ranger. The Ranger he has created for the movie is entertaining – but if fans are going into the movie expecting to buy him as “their” Ranger, I think they’re going to be disappointed.

For his part, Sunjata is not horrible. He’s just incapable of embodying the book Ranger. I’m not sure anyone could, though. It’s almost like he’s playing another character, though, and that character is likeable.

That brings us to the movie itself. I think they wisely had Heigl doing voice-overs that utilized some of the best prose passages of the book.

I also think they did solid work on the set for her parent’s house – but I think they could have did a better job with her apartment. It didn’t detract from the story – but if you’re a book fanatic like I am, you’ll probably notice the difference in the layout.

The overall tone of the movie also matches the books. It’s fun. It’s romantic. It’s never really dark. It’s pretty much just like Evanovich’s world in the books.
Finally, the movie does stick pretty close to the book (there are a few changes, of course) – but there is one notable exception. The ending of the movie is truncated essentially. Meaning, they combined two different scenes from the ending of the book into one scene for the ending of the movie.

Personally, I can’t decide if it was a good move or not. I mean, the movie ending certainly isn’t worse than the book ending. I just don’t know if it’s better. I think, at worst, you can say it is a lateral move. I can see why they did it, though. It makes more sense in the movie’s flow. If they would have went with the book ending, I think it might have made the movie feel a little long.

Ultimately, I was happy with the book’s outcome and I’m hopeful that they will do a second film. The theater I was in for a Friday afternoon matinee was fairly filled – nowhere near overflowing – but everyone seemed to enjoy the movie. In fact, most of the crowd broke out in applause at the end.

So, if you’re looking for a fun movie that both men and women can sit through this weekend, ‘One for the Money’ is probably your best option. It’s actually a plum good time for both sexes. Men will enjoy Heigl’s wardrobe (or lack thereof, at times) and women will enjoy a plucky heroine and their own side of beefcake.

‘One for the Money’ opened in wide distribution today (Jan. 27). It is rated PG-13.


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