(what follows isn’t any official type of review of the movie, but more a mish-mash of my thoughts as they relate to both the movie and the books.)
I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this in the theatre, but Groupon ran a deal last week for tickets for $6. Since I knew I had a 4-day weekend (because of all the recent travel) this weekend, I decided to buy a $6 ticket and take myself to see it. I went today and I’m sure you can imagine the theatre wasn’t too busy, but I was surprised that there were still at least 20 other people in the theatre with me on a Monday afternoon.
Before I get into talking about the movie, I have to say a few things about the trailers before the movie. First, the DisneyNature trailer for Chimpanzee made me absolutely sniffly. This looks like a movie Brianna might like, because she adores these animal movies. Second, watching the trailer for the new Nicholas Sparks’ movie The Lucky One, I had a few thoughts: primarily that there’s no way in hell I’ll watch it because we all know how EVERY Sparks’ movie/book ends (someone dies). Apparently, Sparks has something against people being happy for more than temporarily. But I couldn’t help but ogle the lead actor in the movie, because they show him in a pretty sexual light in this trailer, and there’s a lot of sexy times hinted at. And then. And then they put up the actors’ names and I realized…I was ogling Zac Efron. Zac Efron, people. Isn’t he like twelve? I officially feel like a dirty old woman.
Two more trailers caught my attention. Hunger Games, a book I did read and while I thought it was good, I didn’t LOVE it and never felt compelled to read the other two in the trilogy. But the trailer was actually pretty amazing. I think I might like to see that movie (probably not in the theatre, but all the same, the fact that I might want to see a movie of a book I just liked impressed me). The last trailer was for Cabin in the Woods. A horror/thriller type movie that normally might not be my thing, but the trailer showcased some kind of awesome tongue-in-cheek snark. And the movie is produced by Joss Whedon who kind of excels at tongue-in-cheek snark so maybe his brand of awesome is imprinted on the movie. I’ll look for it to rent.
Now, on to One for the Money. I went into it a bit skeptical. I should note that I don’t consider myself a FAN of the books, though I’ve read the whole series twice. I can still remember the summer, at least 12 years ago, that I discovered the series. I think only 6 were out. I was on a vacation with my ex-husband (well, he was my husband then), in a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan. He spent his whole time fishing on a boat in Lake Michigan, and I get horrible (horrible) water sickness, so I spent my vacation on the beach. Reading Janet Evanovich (frankly, reading on a beach is my perfect vacation). I’d checked out books 1-5 in hardcover from the library, and carted them (and a suitcase of other books) on vacation with me. Yes, I love having a digital library of books to cart with me now. Much lighter! I tore through the first five and didn’t have the sixth, but knew it had been released. We were staying near small town Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, and I looked in both the small local bookstore and the Walmart. Neither had Book Six because the series (and Evanovich) hadn’t quite hit it big yet (there’s a lesson here about the longtail of series, books and publishing). But oh man, they were the perfect beach reads. I continued to faithfully buy each book every June when it released for probably 6 years and then I got a bit weary and jaded. Nothing ever changed, no one ever grew, Stephanie never chose between Morelli and Ranger (I believe Evanovich has since done an interview where she said she never intends for Stephanie to choose. Yes, never. How…depressing).
Anyway. Last year I did a back-to-back re-read of the JD Robb In Death series and I thought it would be interesting to then do a back-to-back reread of the Stephanie Plum series, and see how the two compared in terms of character growth, story ARC, plot, etc over the course of extended series. Though there’s twice as many In Death books as there are Plum books. So I’ve read most of the Plum books twice, with the exception of the most recent, which I haven’t read (with the exception of the Amazon reviewes, which are quite scathing). So I went into the movie with more than a conversant knowledge of the books and characters, but no rabid love, and some rather mixed-bag emotions on the books overall.
That said, what I didn’t really go into the movie with was strong feelings about the actors/actresses chosen for the roles. I know a lot of people went apeshit WTF when Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum (which makes sense to me since she freakin’ produced the movie) but I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t recall any other movie I’ve ever seen her in (I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher. I like books) so I didn’t have any negative OMG NOOOO connotations associated with her. Likewise the rest of the casting. I think the strongest emotion I had was of Debbie Reynolds cast as Grandma Mazur. I picture Grandma Mazur as super old, super tiny and kind of decrepit and wrinkly. Debbie Reynolds is just a bit too…robust for me to really buy into her as Grandma Mazur. Both when I saw she’d been cast and now that I’ve seen the movie.
What I liked about the casting: I love love loved the casting of Connie and Vinnie. The actress and actor chosen for these roles were absolutely perfect. I wish they’d have been in the movie even more, though their appearances were about commiserate with their appearance in the book. Ditto Lula. The actress who played her pulled her off very well. It’s really a shame Lula’s role isn’t a major one until later books. I also liked John Leguizamo cast as Benito Ramirez’s scummy “manager” Jimmy Alpha. But honestly, has Leguizamo ever not been good in a role?
But what about the main characters? I actually thought Heigl did a pretty decent Stephanie Plum, with one small exception. She came across as quite charming (though a bit skinnier than I’ve always pictured Stephanie, as I’ve always thought of her as having a bit of a muffin top, possibly) and spunky. I did think Stephanie in the movie came across as even more too stupid to live than Stephanie in the books, but I think this had more to do with the translation of her idiocy to the big screen, rather than Heigl’s acting. Honestly, I think Heigl did a much better job with the role than all of the hystrionics suggested she would. I’ll get to the small exception in a bit…
Morelli and Ranger. I was…meh on the casting. I mean, I think both guys are hot, though maybe the actor who played Ranger, Daniel Sunjata has lips that are bit too full and made him look a little more feminine than I think of RangerBut I’m not honestly sure who the actor is that would personify the Ranger in my head. The actor who played Morelli, Jason O’Mara, wasn’t quite…Italian? Dark-haired/dark-eyed? enough for my mental picture, but he was plenty hot. My problem with the movie here comes with the fact that both of these characters came off as not at all charming. Not even a little. They instead come across, both of them, as arrogant and at times a bit alpha-holish (TM @jane_l). I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about either character, really, in a hero-type role. And here’s where my small exception of Heigl’s portrayal of Stephanie Plum comes in–she had absolutely no sexual chemistry or sexual tension with either actor. None. Not a bit. Nothing. And if you’ve read the first few books in this series, you’ll know that one thing Evanovich, despite any quibbles I might have with the books, does well is the sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger. Evanovich leads you to really imagine the sizzle and steam between these characters and none of that was translated on screen. And I think that’s the movie’s main downfall: there’s no chemistry.
The other thing I noticed didn’t translate as well to the screen was the undertones of humor that are one of the keystones of Evanovich’s writing. I purposely stayed cognizant of whether people were laughing during the movie and the answer was…not so much. There were only 3 main points were the audience really laughed, and one of those was when Grandma Mazur shot the turkey (a scene in the book that nearly had me peeing my pants but on screen only garnered a few seconds of laughter). But I guess I’m not really that surprised, as humor can be difficult to translate from one medium to another.
Overall, the movie was a fun diversion. I think it’s interesting to note that in both One for the Money the book and the movie, we do see character growth in Stephanie. While she remains somewhat idiotic and too stupid too live, she does carry her gun…and learn how to shoot it. When I re-read the books back-t0-back last year, what stood out most starkly to me in that reading was that Stephanie actually regresses from book one to book two…as in she unlearns skills (like shooting a gun) and general self-defense that she shows in book one (and in the movie). So in the movie, we do get the satisfaction, especially at the action climax of the movie, but also in other scenes, of seeing Stephanie do things that show her growth/learning. In the series, for some reason the author seems determined to make Stephanie Plum progressively dumber and I don’t see movie audiences being appreciative of this (if future movies ever get the chance to be made) so this might be a case where we often see books and movies parting ways and being different in script than manuscript.
Do I regret spending a few hours in the theatre watching it? Not at all. I’ve seen movies where I bemoan the time I’ll never get back. With this movie, I was glad for a few hours away from the computer, to keep me from doing work-type things on my day off. I enjoyed the movie enough to be diverted for a few hours. However, I will say that I’m glad I only paid $6 for it, rather than full movie prices. $6 was the perfect price as an excuse to sit in the theatre and inhale buttered-popcorn calories. A
Would I recommend it? Um…gah. The answer isn’t yes, it’s not no. I guess if I were rating it, I’d give it a 5 of 10 (which somehow sounds nicer than 2.5 out of 5, doesn’t it?) Incidentally, this is the same rating it gets on IMDB and I think “in the middle” is a good rating for this. I can’t say how people who have absolutely no association with the books will feel about it. If you’re an extreme fan of the books, yes, by all means, you should definitely go see it. If you’re a casual fan of the books, wait for video. If you hate Katherine Heigl, well, you probably won’t enjoy it no matter how you feel about the books. As I said earlier, I think she did a pretty good job pulling off Stephanie Plum.
All in all, this is not, by far, the worst book-to-movie translation I’ve ever seen and I’d actually like to see a second movie made, if only to see if they can improve on the sexual chemistry, move Morelli and Ranger to the roles of charming, likeable hero material, and to see Lula, Connie and Vinnie get more screen time. They were just that well cast.