Friday 13 July 2012

One For The Money

Plum’s The Word

One For The Money 
USA 2012
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
Entertainment In Video Region 2

Okay... so yet again we have a film that I’ve been patiently waiting to come out at the cinema over here, only for it to go straight to the sell-thru market and leap out of the Tesco DVD chart at me. Admittedly, I was only keeping an eye open so I could take my parents, who are huge fans of the books, to see it but, still, it would have been nice to shuffle them into the cinema to check it out rather than get mugged by it in the shops. Pay heed please distributors!

One For The Money is the second of two films (the first was a TV movie in 2002) made of the first of writer Janet Evanovich’s popular series of comical mystery novels about an attitude-gets-you-through-in-the-place-of-competence bounty hunter named Stephanie Plum and her adorable cast of supporting characters. The novels (the 19th in the official Stephanie Plum series comes out this November) are all named after successive numbers... One For The Money, Two For The Dough, Three To Get Deadly etc... and the ones I’ve read (okay then, heard read to me as in-car entertainment as a spoken word CD) have all been pretty well written, solid novels which I’m amazed haven’t been turned into a hit series of films by now.

Well... having seen this latest version, I can kinda see why actually. There’s a little problem here and there’s, absolutely nothing wrong with the movie... I’d recommend it as both a good night in and a brilliant adaptation from the source material, as it happens... but it’s just not an event movie and I’m guessing this is why it had little (possibly none, for all I know) cinema time in this country. It’s a nice, amusing and charmingly comical mystery movie, completely reflective of the source material which has inspired it. Unfortunately, I’m guessing this means it’s not expected to corner the market in teenage ticket sales which, like it or not, is where Hollywoodland have got their sites firmly set these days.

So what can I say... it’s filled with people I’ve never heard of... plus John Leguizamo playing a, typical for him, villainous role (when he would have been better off playing one of the stand up regulars in this one, methinks) and the one and only Debbie Reynolds in the iconic, for the novels, role of grandma. Unfortunately, my one main criticism of this particular adaptation is that grandma, who is obsessed with all things weaponry, is not given enough screen time here. That part needed a lot of expanding, I think, to help the movie along a little more... and it’s a shame if, as I suspect, they stop at just one movie in this series.

The lead character is played by an actress I’ve not seen in anything before called Katherine Heigl... but I can tell you this. She makes an excellent Stephanie Plum and does, indeed, carry the whole production on her shoulders. Not just in terms of being an excellent actress who portrays a likeable character that the audience can identify with but also, as a proper realisation of the character as she is in the book. They seem to have picked the perfect actress for the role. I just hope they give her another shot with a sequel.

Ditto on the screenplay. It’s a well written adaptation with a good ear for Evanovich’s dialogue and any bits where you can guess what’s going to happen next, and I confess there are a fair few moments like this, are not necessarily the fault of the movie as I remember the source novel being a little predictable at times. However, these stories aren’t about their predicability, or lack of... they’re about classic noir-style scripts updated in a modern setting with a cast of characters which raise it above the strengths and weaknesses of the storyline.

I think the main problem in terms of box office potential in this is that there are no real “set pieces” in the movie. It’s not a problem for me because I find that kind of film-making stale, derogatory to the story and obvious anyway, but I think a lot of modern movies do contain “larger than life” sequences and, unfortunately, this seems to be what young audiences have been brain washed into expecting. In stark contrast, One For The Money features a well-rounded script, more than competent (and sometimes excellent) performances, good work-a-day direction and cinematography and it hustles along at a not too slow pace... although a punchier editing style might well have lifted the movie into something a little more marketable or remarkable. In short, a great little movie which isn’t going to start any fires but which certainly isn’t a waste of your time. I’m hoping it will do well on DVD as I do think there’s a fairly sizeable audience for this kind of movie out there... especially when it’s based on such a long running series of books which already have an audience they can bring to it!

I think one of the problems here may also have been the marketing. How many Janet Evanovich or Stephanie Plumb fans are there out there who eve knew there was a movie. Granted, the title of the film is lifted directly from the book, but it’s also a popular expression and you really can’t count on the recognition factor for that specific sector of the market is my guess. What they maybe should have done is called it something like Stephanie Plum: One For The Money and maybe more people would have twigged and turned out for it in the US (where I’m guessing it underperformed, hence the lack of a substantial cinema release over here?).

At the end of the day though, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a nice little movie which is well adapted from the novel and which will appeal to all the kinds of fans of mysteries who would enjoy a little Scooby Doo/Nancy Drew mixed up into smart one liners from a sexy “dame”. And fans of this particular series of novels need not fear that the movie sells the series short... it’s safe to go watch this one people! It does the job. So if you’re looking for something light, breezy and charming... with a little extra sexiness and weaponry thrown in for good measure... Plum’s the one and Stephanie’s your gal!

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