Hot on the pointy-toed high heels of Mean Girls, another new teen extravaganza opened nationwide last week: New York Minute. As a native of the greatest city in the world, I rarely pass up an opportunity to spend two vicarious hours there without benefit of JetBlue. In addition, I'm informally cataloguing the Adolescent Appropri-ation of America.
That project may sound paranoid, but I've got proof. The stars of this film -- co-producers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen -- have built a $1 billion entertainment empire since breaking into show business as nine-month-olds on the ABC situation comedy "Full House." Now 17,
these wraithlike twins with enormous, Keene-painting eyes have a "fashion and lifestyle collection" sold at
Wal-Mart, which is equally adept
at taking over the country.
The Hollywood-bred sisters have also performed in dozens of previous movies that went straight to video. For better or for worse, New York Minute has made it to the big screen. Directed by Dennie Gordon from a script by three similarly unknown people, it's a screwball comedy on steroids about siblings in peril.
Jane (Ashley) and Roxy (Mary-Kate) Ryan feud, flee bad guys, fall in love with good guys, and finally realize it's important to "always be true to yourself." That's actually only a quote from the Daily Thought section on the official Olsen website, which promotes their cool clothing, cosmetics and interior-decoration products. The true moral of the motion picture is seemingly that blood's thicker than, um, mascara.
The young ladies, who live with their single dad and attend high school in suburbia, are polar opposites engaged in a familiar odd-couple dynamic. They look almost exactly alike but feel disdain for each other's tastes and 'tudes. All the action takes place on one particular day, when their separate plans converge in a series of joint encounters with madcap mayhem.
Jane's an uptight control freak whose tidy pink bedroom features a George W. Bush bobble-head doll and a framed photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This Republican subplot never goes anywhere. Her goal is to win a scholarship to study at Oxford by giving a speech before the committee that chooses between competing applicants.
An aspiring drummer with a preference for squalor, Roxy hopes to slip her demo tape to record-company moguls at an outdoor music-video shoot for the punk band Simple Plan. This means skipping classes, which she's done many times before. A zealous truant officer -- played by the wonderful Eugene Levy of A Mighty Wind fame -- is obsessed with catching her in the act.
While squabbling on a Long Island Railroad ride into Manhattan, Jane and Roxy accidentally drench a fellow passenger ("Saturday Night Live" comic Darrell Hammond) with their beverages. He keeps popping back into the proceedings at unexpected moments, as does a hunky bike messenger (Riley Smith) who finds Jane quite attractive. Coincidences abound. Many are exceedingly far-fetched.
A villainous buffoon (Andy Richter, the former Conan O'Brien sidekick) begins chasing the siblings after one of his criminal associates, evading the police, tosses a valuable microchip into Roxy's handbag. This character, the adopted white-bread son of an Asian family, speaks with a fake Chinese accent -- among the less humorous touches in a story that tries way too hard to deliver the gags. Other ethnic groups are periodically stereotyped in this fruitless effort.
In an early sequence, we learn that Jane speaks fluent Mandarin and Roxy's a Jiu-Jitsu expert with Crouching Tiger finesse. No matter. These throwaway details never resurface.
Still trying to get to their respective destinations and evade their pursuers, the girls duck uninvited into the hotel room of a U.S. Senator (Andrea Martin, like Levy a "Second City" alum). There, they meet her son (Jared Padalecki), who takes a fancy to Roxy. Before long, though, the intrepid twins are on the lam again, this time with the politician's little frou-frou dog in tow.
The chase scenes wind through taxicabs, limos, Winnebagos, subway stations and sewers as the feisty heroines navigate the island from above and beneath during an improbably frenetic afternoon. But the thrill of cinematic sightseeing in my hometown (Isn't that the hospital where I was born?) lasts only until the closing credits reveal that much of New York Minute was filmed in Toronto. Oh, Big Apple, why can't you be true to yourself?