This movie needed a little more Lula. Make that a lot more Lula.
Lula is the plus-size prostitute who gives bounty-hunting protagonist Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) information in exchange for snack treats. And in this film adaptation of Janet Evanovich's number-in-the-title novels, all of which are focused on Plum, the character of Lula is played by Sherri Shepherd. She gets all the funny lines. And there are about five of them. Shepherd is good at the funny line. She's great on 30 Rock. But for a movie being sold as a comic whodunnit, five is not enough. It works out to about one laugh every 20 minutes.
The other 99 minutes involve Katherine Heigl failing to convince anyone that she's a tough Jersey Girl/laid-off lingerie saleswoman who becomes an intuitive bounty hunter overnight, chasing down scary guys in the hopes of scoring $50,000 for nabbing a cop (Jason O'Mara) accused of murder. She also turns out to be a great, natural marksman whose secret trick is to aim the gun while crying. No kidding. Her best shots happen while she's weeping. Here's what Katherine Heigl is, so far, good at doing in movies: acting like a prim husband-hunter who's also a major glutton for punishment. What she's not good at is pretending she can bawl and shoot a gun at the same time. It's admirable that she's looking to branch out and hopefully break away from the toxic, woman-hating romantic comedies that have become her bread and butter. And you can tell that she wants to communicate earthiness here with hair dyed dark brown and her character's addiction to cheese puffs and Tastykakes but, unfortunately for her, at this point in her acting journey, she seems more comfortable playing uptight caterers in Garry Marshall movies.
But let's get back to the funny parts. Maybe you watched the excruciating trailer and saw Shepherd say, "We've got a good cop, bad cop thing going. Except we're hookers." That's one of the funny lines. There are four others. I suppose I shouldn't spoil them for you here. And no, the sight of Debbie Reynolds as the wacky grandma shooting a roasted turkey with Heigl's gun doesn't count as one of them. Maybe if Reynolds had also been rapping something profane by Geto Boys it would have helped that scene. But that doesn't happen.
In a universe where this movie finds a huge audience, one equivalent to the book series' readership, there could be as many as 20 sequels. And as early as the second installment, Lula leaves sex work behind and becomes Stephanie Plum's co-worker. Which means more speaking roles for a funny African American woman, possibly even Shepherd. But that's the imaginary fantasy future, one where everyone else gets replaced and bunch of new writers, directors and stars pick up this cold case and figure out how to solve it so that anyone wants to pay attention.