Katherine Heigl takes on Janet Evanovich in One for the Money, a very middling adaptation.
I mean, I’m guessing that is a middling version of a more satisfying original text. I’ve never read an Evanovich novel. But the movie suggests that there’s some liveliness to these stories, a sense of fun that makes them good beach-read fare. It suggests these things but isn’t able to bring them to the screen.
Stephanie Plum (Heigl) is out of work and running on the fumes of her last job, as a lingerie salesperson. Actually, she would be running on fumes if her car hadn’t just been repossessed. At a family dinner, suggestions for financial recovery include getting married and working for cousin Vinny (Patrick Fischler) at his bail bonds business. Stephanie adamantly does not want to get married again, so she gives working for Vinny a try. There’s no office work but she decides to do a little bounty hunter work. And she starts not with simple Failure to Appears but with a cop who jumped bail and is accused of murder — Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara). If she brings him in, it will mean a much-needed $50,000 payday for her. But also, Stephanie likes the idea of specifically dragging Morelli to jail as she is still fuming over a brief high school romance they had.
Her first attempt at nabbing Joe Morelli ends with him taunting her, so she decides to get a little advice from Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), a super-buff super-capable fellow bounty hunter. She acquires a gun and starts to work on her investigative skills, looking into the murder that Joe is accused of in hopes of finding out more about where he’s spending his time.
While watching this movie, I couldn’t help but think about the much better USA network TV series someone could make from this material. One that wouldn’t have to hit the rom-com-y elements so hard, one that could allow Stephanie to be a less forced character. I’m not sure whom I would cast as the lead in this show — someone less weighed down by the past than Archie Panjabi’s Kalinda on The Good Wife, not quite as experienced as Kyra Sedgwick’s Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer, but not as harsh as Mary McCormack’s Mary Shannon in In Plain Sight. There is great potential in this character and in the quirky-but-fun cast of supporting characters: the friendly prostitute Lula (Sherri Shepherd), Stephanie’s spunky grandma (Debbie Reynolds), Ranger and, nicely riffing on his Life on Mars charming cop character, Jason O’Mara as Joe. Their performances range between cute and entertaining but they are all better than the movie’s center, Heigl’s Stephanie Plum.
So what is wrong with Heigl? Is it that I can no longer divorce her performance in any movie from the joyless, sour-faced shriekers she plays in all those romantic comedies? Or is she just a pretty actress who in large doses is not engaging? I’m not exactly sure. Whatever it is, it gets in the way of my believing that she has chemistry of any kind with anybody — not romantic chemistry, friend chemistry, nothing. She does not melt into the story but stands out, a sharp piece of glass in a box of pristine white sand, a rusty nail in a dish of smooth vanilla ice cream.
A plop of heavy gravy amid all this effervescence, Heigl sucks the fun out of this very rompy story. C-
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual and language, some drug material and partial nudity. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson with a screenplay by Stacy Sherman & Karen Ray and Liz Brixius (from the novel by Janet Evanovich), One for the Money is an hour and 46 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.