Grae's Rating:


Garden Variety Garden State

Say what you will about the recent onslaught of New Jersey-focused reality TV shows, but at least they feature characters that entertain and stand for something, even if it is fake tanning and animal prints. Here's an idea, Jersey: slap a cease and desist on Katherine Heigl for making you look boring--recently as Jon Bon Jovi's girlfriend in New Years Eve, and currently as inept bounty hunter Stephanie Plum from the Janet Evanovich-penned series. I'm sure fans of the books as well as overly forgiving chick flick fiends will find the movie passable--but for everyone on the fence looking for some guns and sexual tension, you're barking up the wrong tree.

From where I'm sitting, Stephanie Plum (as played by Katherine Heigl and written for the screen by three women) doesn't think hard enough to realize that her decision to bounty hunt her ex-boyfriend Joe Morelli (Jason O'Mara) is just an opportunity to brighten up her sad, lonely life through manipulation and desperate flirting. Wanna see a woman make other women look bad? Watch Heigl as she bungles opportunity after lame opportunity to bring him in, throwing mock-crankiness his way as he pretends to kiss her to steal her car keys and handcuffs her to her own shower rod. Sure, Stephanie does what she can to learn about guns and cop lingo, but in the end, she is still completely committed to playing a cops-and-robbers role playing game with this guy who obviously doesn't like her. The whole movie is hard to take when the main character is so lacking in self-actualization.

Although there is a beginning-middle-end where there is more to the Morelli case than meets the eye (much to Stephanie's delight, since that means she can draw out the pathetic flirting some more), the entire film reeks of underdeveloped characters and unfinished storylines. Since there are three books in the series, I assume that the other two flesh out the caricatures that exist in this version of New Jersey, like Stephanie's grandma (Debbie Reynolds). All she does here is wear glittery sunglasses and bust a cap in their dinner entree with Stephanie's gun. And what about the man in front of her face that actually seems like a real romantic prospect, the super sexy and talented bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata)? Here, he gets tossed aside and forgotten. There's a hooker with a heart of gold (Sherri Shepherd), and even a boxer who--get this--has a taste for violence. Snore.

I'm sure that proponents of the series will say that Stephanie is a great example of a modern woman taking care of business. But compared to someone like Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight, Stephanie is a total drip who needs to get her head on straight before she picks up a weapon again.


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