The lightning-fast descent of Katherine Heigl’s career continues with One for the Money, her most unbearable and soporific work yet, providing more proof that any charm she displayed in Knocked Up was little more than a flash in the pan. On the strength (or indeed, weakness) of this lazy adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s beloved novel, it seems clear that Heigl would likely be more comfortable in the less judgemental, more forgiving arena of episodic TV drama, ala her hit show Grey’s Anatomy.
Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, an unemployed woman living in Newark, New Jersey, who in her desperation decides to work for her cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler), as a bail enforcement agent. Vinnie’s most valuable perp is Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), and he just happens to be a man Stephanie slept with as a teenager, who promptly kicked her to the kerb afterwards. Seeing a chance for revenge by chasing her former lover down, she nevertheless finds herself conflicted once she realises that Joe might be innocent of the murder it is claimed he committed.
This is a shonky production from start to finish; the lazy, errant use of voiceover narration is thoroughly uninspired, spoon-feeding us any details the writers couldn’t be bothered to dole out through the actual narrative. Meanwhile, everybody is busy doing their best ‘New Joisy’ accent, and Heigl is especially inexplicable in her inconsistency, switching between accents without much consideration. What’s worse though is the inept construction of the story, so aggressive that it suggests an oddly enthusiastic contempt for the audience. We’re supposed to root for the sassy, silly Steph as she chases down her former lay for a massive payout, but her actions ultimately come across as creepy, and more than one character refers to her weirdness directly to her face.
Also, it’s simply not funny. Gags almost always flat, and the rest are spoiled by the script’s own lack of confidence; a sight gag in a shooting range, for instance, is completely ruined because the script explains the joke to us about half a minute after it’s already clicked. In fact, the only real source of amusement is Stephanie’s grandmother (played by Debbie Reynolds), a senile but spunky old woman who simply does not appear enough throughout. The film makes plenty of effort to make light of the sexual tension between Steph and Joe, the only problem being that there’s no natural chemistry between the pair, entirely unaided by the comatose screenplay. While one situation – in which Steph ends up handcuffed naked to a shower rail – could have made for a sexy bout of laughs, it’s likely to leave you admiring Heigl’s figure (of which she displays a surprising amount here) more than anything.
Even removing the comedy, the dramatic and thriller elements can’t muster the least bit of suspense; Steph comes up with the genius scheme of stealing Joe’s car, so that when he comes searching for it, she can catch him. The only thing more insulting than this plan is that Joe pretty much falls for it, and when the big bad (played by John Leguizamo) finally has the pair in his grasp, he ends up explaining his entire evil plot like a parody of a Bond villain. Most depressingly, it’s slapped onto the screen without a single sense of irony or self-awareness, and concludes with a head-smackingly lame happy ending in which even things you don’t want to be resolved are tied up nice and neatly.
An insult to every possible demographic of filmgoer, One for the Money is a cynical, mind-numbingly stupid film which can’t even rustle up some basic sexual tension to make the ride slightly palatable. Heigl has become more insufferable with every role, and with this one, she is finally, truly impossible to tolerate. Ultimately, it’s further proof that Katherine Heigl picks her projects by stapling all potential scripts to a wall and throwing a dart.
The film is out now in UK cinemas.