Resting on the laurels of an entire genre of city mouse-country conversion movies, "New in Town" stars Renee Zellweger as an urbane Miami executive who goes to Minnesota, freezes her assumptions off, and learns the value of simple people. It's a foolproof premise given how often it's been done - "Local Hero," "Baby Boom," "Northern Exposure," to name a few - but one would think there'd be something new here. No. Director Jonas Elmer is content to recycle the basic tropes and allow Zellweger and co-star Harry Connick Jr. to charm the movie into life. It almost works.
Zellweger is Lucy Hill, who volunteers to oversee the retooling of her company's packaging plant in the wilds of Mi-nuh-zoh-tah, where the men are men, the women are scrappers (scrapbook keepers) and the whole town sings "O Come All Ye Faithful" at the annual Christmas pageant. That she arrives in the dead of winter wearing heels and a skirt suit indicates a certain lack of preparation for the job, but such is what the movie's about.
She's completely a fish out of water, and none too diplomatic: When she meets Ted Mitchell (Connick), they get into an argument that encapsulates the entirety of the red state/blue state argument in American politics. What she doesn't know is that Ted is the union rep, and that she's going to have to deal with him on every move she makes.
You can see where this is going all the way from Duluth - not just the Ted-Lucy romance-to-be but the seduction of Lucy by the kindly townsfolk, the most hilarious of whom is Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), who tries to steer the clueless Lucy through her cultural adjustment. Fallon Hogan is one of those actress-comedians people know by sight if not by name and her inclusion here will keep viewers from wondering whether "New in Town" really is more stimulating than ice fishing.
PLOT Miami executive is transferred to Minnesota, where the weather is cold but the people are warm.
CAST Renee Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr., Siobhan Fallon Hogan, J.K. Simmons, Frances Conroy
PLAYING AT Showtimes and tickets at area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Pleasant but predictable rehash of at least a dozen movies.
10,000 lakes and 4 movies
'New in Town" is the most recent movie set in Minnesota (even though it was filmed in Canada). Here are four others:
PURPLE RAIN (1984) - Prince's semiautobiographical story of a young Minneapolis musician trying to make it on his own.
THE MIGHTY DUCKS (1992) - The story of a Twin Cities pee-wee hockey team reluctantly coached by a lawyer ( Emilio Estevez) paying off his drunk-driving arrest with community service.
GRUMPY OLD MEN (1993) - Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau play longtime bickering friends, who are now widowers in Wabasha, Minn.
MAJOR LEAGUE: BACK TO THE MINORS (1998) - The third in the series switches its emphasis from the Cleveland Indians to the Minnesota Twins, with Corbin Bernsen as their owner.