“One for the Money,” the first adaptation of a book in author Janet Evanovich’s popular Stephanie Plum series, wants desperately to be as slick an entertainment as “Get Shorty” but ends up a little lower on the scale, closer to “Jersey Shore.”
Set in Trenton, New Jersey, the story begins when Plum (Katherine Heigl, who also produces) confesses to her family that she lost her job… six months ago. With her car in the repo shop, her rent due and fridge empty, she blackmails her cousin into giving her a job as a skip tracer, a.k.a. bounty hunter. Her first gig is to bring in a former flame named Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), which lends a double meaning to the cop slang she uses when she talks about “nailing” him. The job becomes much more complicated as she gets pulled into a much larger criminal conspiracy.
Amazon.com describes the fictional Plum of the books as smart, honest and funny, three things her cinematic counterpart is most definitely not.
Heigl plays the character as a romantic comedy reject with a gun with all the nuance that implies. What should have been a plum role for her (pun intended) falls flat. Tough one second, vulnerable the next, she’s all over the place, and as a result never finds anything interesting to say about Plum.
It doesn’t help that she is surrounded by cardboard-thin characters, each one quirkier than the last. How about a grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) who has a one liner for every occasion, or a hooker (Sherri Shepherd) with an attitude and an appetite?
There is room for colorful characters in a movie like this, just not so many of them. “Get Shorty” worked because it had one flamboyant character at its center, not one (or more) in every scene.
It might be tolerable if any of them had interesting dialogue, but when Morelli spouts lines like, “We are ancient history… like the pyramids, baby,” and Plum solemnly declares in her fluctuating Jersey accent, “Now it’s personal,” it only reinforces the idea that not a lot of effort went into this sloppy movie.
That, and obvious gaffes like the fastest sunset in history—it’s daylight one second, darkness the next!—and a character who frees himself after being handcuffed to a railing, without pulling a Houdini on the handcuffs themselves! That’s a magic trick David Copperfield would like.
Worse, “One for the Money” doesn’t respect its audience. Though the story is by-the-book, Plum constantly interrupts the flow with exposition and voice overs that explain the extremely obvious. Well-crafted crime thrillers are like puzzles hat offer the audience to do some of the detective work.
Former “Grey’s Anatomy” director Julie Anne Robinson chooses not to allow that audience that pleasure, instead she spoils the fun by providing blow-by-blow commentary from Plum.
“One for the Money” cold have been the beginning of a fun franchise for Stephanie Plum fans, but is, in its place, a ninety-minute exercise in how not to adapt a book to the big screen.