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Nolan Williams
Nolan Williams

New In Town

But good luck finding anyone in this southern Minnesota burg who's ready to take umbrage at the latest spoofing. The attitude Wednesday along Minnesota Street downtown: There's no such thing as bad publicity, so bring on the earflaps, "Yah, fershurs," scrapbooking and embroidered sweaters.

new in town

Veigel also understands how Hollywood works. Her husband, Don, worked in Tinseltown in the 1940s, and their classic German restaurant, Veigel's Kaiserhoff, has a wall filled with personally autographed photos of Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck and even Lucille Ball in her come-hither era.

It's safe to say, then, that in this town of 13,158, where speakers downtown blare oom-pah music all day and the daily specials at the Ulmer Café include Tater Tot hot dish (Monday), sauerkraut with pork (Friday) and sauerkraut with meatballs (Saturday), the locals are embracing the regional clichés.

Renee Zellweger combines Katharine Hepburn and Scrooge into a single character as she plays Lucy Hill, tough career woman sent from balmy Miami to frigid Minnesota when her corporation decrees that she should be the one to optimize a local factory's output. That means updating mechanization and laying off workers. Of course, Lucy's first impression of the town where she'll be staying and the hicks who live there is not positive. She is shocked by the lack of sophistication shown by her new secretary, Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), and the local union representative, Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.). She and Ted fight like cats and dogs, but that's only foreplay. And, as much as they might be trying to channel Hepburn and Tracey, the screenplay works against them. Sophisticated banter this isn't.

In its pursuit of the happy ending, New in Town leaves no stone unturned. Lucy's character arc requires that she make the Christmas Eve transformation (sans ghosts) from a corporate-minded bitch to someone who would love to turn her back on Miami and live in a small northern town. The romance requires that the opposites not only attract but become stuck together. And the factory must be kept open through the miraculous production of tapioca to avoid the town turning into Flint, Michigan West. I'm not opposed to feel-good movies, but they need to be intelligently written and competently produced. This is neither. The film's clumsy attempts to manipulate the audience into caring about these one-dimensional caricatures would be funny if they weren't intended to be serious.

New in Town was in the can before anyone outside of Alaska knew who Sarah Palin was, so it's somewhat remarkable that the supposed appeal of the characters in this film lies in the same small town folksiness (complete with accent) that made Palin an international celebrity. It's also worth mentioning that this film's Gunderson talks a lot like another film's Gunderson, although that's where any similarities between New in Town and Fargo end. (One can't help but wonder whether the name was ripped off from Fargo. Seems too coincidental to be an accident.)

The Settler's Wagon also comes stocked with three Building Permits, unique pieces of paper which are required for most town structure recipes. These recipes, obtained from the Town Planner, are input into the Site Planners at the edges of the wagon's plot to build the appropriate structure.

There are currently four naturally generating features in Kingdoms. These structures do not appear based on seed or as part of world generation; instead, they are randomly loaded into the world when the player starts their settlement with the Town Charter. They can appear up to 300 blocks away and are not biome specific. Each features some sort of unclear task or puzzle which, when overcome, yields a unique item used for a corresponding special town or fortress structure.

Zellweger is Lucy, a midlevel executive at some kind of Miami food conglomerate, who is sent to New Ulm, Minn., to downsize a small-town plant. Most of the comedy comes from Lucy's adjustments to the folksy small-town Minnesota culture, where executive assistants are still called secretaries, and business deals are brokered in duck blinds. Do you think this movie could possibly end without someone accidentally getting shot in the butt?

"New in Town" isn't "When Harry Met Sally ..." or even "Sweet Home Alabama," but it does get a lot of things right. The movie captures the quirks of New Ulm without poking gratuitous fun at small-town living, and the script has a handful of laughs. The comedy is mostly carried by an outstanding group of character actors, including a nearly unrecognizable J.K. Simmons as the curmudgeonly plant foreman and Siobhan Fallon as Lucy's nosy secretary. Harry Connick Jr. is also solid as Lucy's romantic foil, a tough local union rep with a soft spot for his teen daughter.

Miami food exec Lucy Hill (Renne Zellweger) wants a vice presidency job so bad she can taste it. Which explains why she volunteers to help streamline her firm's manufacturing plant in the town of New Ulm, Minn. -- an undertaking that could take months (during winter, to boot). Lucy's all business when she first arrives; the workers are suspicious, and an early run-in with handsome union rep Ted (Harry Connick Jr.) goes awry. But her walls inevitably topple in the face of her assistant's relentless cheeriness, and before long Lucy's grown attached to her employees and neighbors, especially Ted ... just in time for her to discover that her boss wants to shutter the factory for good.

Families can talk about whether it's OK to play stereotypes -- whether of people or locations -- for laughs. How does the movie portray women and people from small-town Minnesota? Is it accurate or exaggerated? Can you think of movies with stronger positive female role models? Families can also discuss why so many Hollywood romantic comedies are about opposites attracting. Do you think relationships like that are as frequent (and as successful) in real life?

Hold on to your toques. The romantic comedy "New in Town," in which Renée Zellweger plays a female executive who's transferred from the big city to small-town Minnesota, opens with a scrapbooking scene. That's right: a group of women sit at a table pasting photographs and little bits of colored paper into elaborately decorated bound volumes. Exceedingly sensitive viewers, as well as recent patients of open-heart surgery, are advised to avoid "New in Town," as the excitement may just be too much.

On second thought, maybe just about everyone should stay away from this drearily cheerful little picture that isn't nearly as funny or as heartwarming -- or even as topical, given the economic climate -- as it thinks it is. Zellweger plays Lucy Hill, a business gal from Miami whose company transfers her to Tinytown, Minn., to take over management of a food plant -- and, of course, lay off lots of workers. Even though the locals are very, very nice to her, she of course condescends to them at first. But in the movie's terms, they need to be condescended to, because, you know, they're not very bright. When Lucy expresses her pleasure at meeting her new administrative assistant, Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), the woman gives her a blank but cheerfully helpful stare: "I'm just your secretary -- do you need me to find you one of those?" Making things worse, it's damn cold. We're treated to numerous shots of Lucy toddling over ice-slicked surfaces in her city-slicker stilettos. In the world of "New in Town," Floridians don't seem to realize that different parts of the United States actually have different weather.

On her first night in town, Lucy meets Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick Jr.), a scruffily bearded, beer-guzzling, truck-driving lout -- upon making her acquaintance, he burps and spurtles beer out of his mouth. Later, she's dismayed to learn he's the local union rep. But, as we know, all an uptight city woman really needs is the love of a good, strong, red-blooded man, so it's not hard to guess where "New in Town" is headed.

From Michael J. Fox in Doc Hollywood, to Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama, to Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, Hollywood seems to love to throw a city person into a small town locale, in hopes that the fish out of water jokes will come fast and easy. Renee Zellwegger travels that familiar path in New in Town, but the laughs are scarce.

In usual Hollywood tradition, all of the small town folk are quaint and, other than one rude waitress, very pleasant. Lucy is clueless about the climate and such things as a real fireplace. She thinks they all work with a switch. She falls for the local union representative Ted, even though they are at odds about the downsizing.

One thing I'm surprised you didn't mention Eric, given how you've complained about Hollywood's treatment of religion in movies before, is how Blanche is shown to be a Christian. She mentions Jesus several times and at Christmas the whole town is shown to be singing a religious Christmas Carol. It's true that Lucy mocks her at first, but Blanche is shown to be a positive person who retains her belief throughout the movie.

NEW IN TOWN is the story of Lucy, an ambitious career woman from Miami who is assigned to a small Minnesota town in order to lay off half the workforce and modernize a production plant. However, once there, she befriends the locals, especially the union representative, and her life is never the same.

The music in New in Town is a throwback to T-Rex, Gloria Gaynor, Katrina and the Waves, and Moot Davis. Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick star in movie about a big city girl comes to a small town for business and ends up finding life is more important than work.

New in Town is about a tough corporate cookie who's been dispatched from Miami to a snowbound Minnesota town in order to downsize the workforce at a factory. Despite what you might think, it is not a reality show but rather a wish-fulfillment fantasy for our economic times: good old-fashioned American ingenuity will certainly save the day. As a bonus, someone's frosty heart is bound to be thawed in the process by a strapping Minnesowt'en. 041b061a72


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