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NEW YORK MINUTE (PG) (2004)

Warner Bros.

Official Site

Director: Dennie Gordon

Producers: Denise Di Novi, Robert Thorne, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen

Written by: Emily Fox and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage

Cast: Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Eugene Levy, Andy Richter

 

 Rating:


Disclaimer: I’m going to own up to something before I begin my official, remorseless, tundra-hearted flaying of New York Minute: I am neither female, teenaged, or pre-teenaged. Nor am I a concerned parent intent on ensuring that my children view only age-appropriate, inoffensive filmed entertainment. Finally, and most importantly, I have never harbored any sort of pedophilic infatuation with either of the Olsen twins, be it for Mary-Kate or Ashley. I ask you, my reader, to take the aforementioned information into account when perusing this text. Without further delay, then, I offer my scathing critique of New York Minute, complete with a suitably clever, vitriolic opening remark concerning the film’s title.

The definition of the colloquial expression “New York minute” can be approximated as “in a heartbeat;” time supposedly passes so quickly within the neon-and-concrete labyrinth of New York City that a minute seemingly ticks away with the alacrity of but a moment. How side-splittingly ironic, then, that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s theatrical adventure bears the name of that oft-used expression, because—and I swear this to whatever unholy Babylonian demon-god the Olsen twins sold their souls for their unaccountable success and celebrity—this New York Minute felt more like a real-world millennium. I have rarely felt more embarrassment (along with a deep, troubled sympathy) for a collection of filmmakers than I do for the unfortunate souls associated with this Olsen-led descent into the bubblegum-and-pony-scented chasm of the preteen female psyche. For any self-respecting cinephile who somehow finds himself in an auditorium in which New York Minute is featuredperhaps you’re being held at gunpoint, perhaps you’ve always wondered what Hell looks like—rest assured that you will observe a nightmare circus of unintentionally hilarious, sanitized madcap fluff, just abhorrent enough to be redeemable in the cruelest of ways.

Jane Ryan (A. Olsen) is an anal-retentive overachiever who is about to deliver a speech which will determine whether she will be awarded a highly coveted collegiate fellowship at Oxford. Roxy Ryan is a laid-back, thrill-seeking, faux-rock ’n’ roll chick whose only goals are to play in a band and catch the A Simple Plan video shoot happening in NYC, coincidentally, the same day as her sister’s speech. Now, if that’s not a recipe for two servings of steaming highjinks buttery enough to make Betty Crocker blush, then hey, I don’t know what is. As the formulaically juxtaposed Ryan sisters struggle to arrive at their respective engagements in the city they predictably experience a series of episodic disasters that can only be described as (insert onomatopoeia for vomiting). Expensive dresses are torn, train tickets and daily planners are lost, and dirty puddle-water is splashed all over our befuddled, bedimpled heroines. In addition to those circumstantial travails, the sisters encounter antagonists who stop at nothing to put an end to their Homeric, free-spirited quests: the not-quite-sociopathic-enough, Chinese-accented assassin, Bennie (Richter), who wants to reclaim the computer chip filled with illegally downloaded music that is eaten by a dog that the girls come to adorably tote, handbag-like; the local truancy officer, Lomax (Levy), whose apartment is smoky, filled with surveillance photographs of Roxy, and contains a chalkboard on which is maddeningly scrawled the mantra “Must catch Roxy Ryan!” and whose sorrow-evoking delusions lead him to believe that he’s a significant block of the law-enforcement pyramid. Don’t, like, worry, though, because all totally ends well, as the sisters, like, learn to overcome their differences and even meet two hella hot hotties (Riley Smith and Jared Padalecki) to hold hands and snuggle with! Girls rule!

But that’s all just broad synopsis. These are the graphic specifics of why New York Minute is painful like walking in on your best friend having sex with your girlfriend on your parents’ bed at your birthday party while receiving a phone call informing you that your entire family perished in four simultaneous-but-unrelated auto accidents as zombies tear through your stomach with their undead hands and make brunch of your involuntarily evacuating bowels (in no particular order):

  • the grotesquely waif-er thin, reaper-like physical proportions of Mary-Kate and Ashley, who appear fragile and alien when positioned next to anyone of average stature
  • the multiple scenes in which Jane either uses the restroom or ends up nude
  • the barren, vapid expressions which never escape the faces of the girls’ love interests
  • the introduction of A Simple Plan as a “punk rock” band (Joey Ramone sheds tears for us all from underground) in the most instantly dating concert scene this side of Vanilla Ice’s performance of “Ninja Rap” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
  • the dizzying number of times A Simple Plan is referenced, alluded to, shown, and aggrandized
  • the subway-set fight scene between Bennie and the sisters, complete with choreographed “jujitsu” weapon-strikes and the obligatory (and noticeably ungraceful) slow-motion jumpkicks
  • Jack Osborne’s uncharismatic and senseless presence as the manager of Roxy’s band
  • the sisters’ rap-video-themed booty-shaking/costume-changing montage in a ghetto salon
  • the mentioning of Avril Lavigne as a “famous Canadian professor,” and the lyrics to her song “Complicated” related to the audience in the context of a speech by Roxy
  • Jane and her boy-toy, Jim, the bike courier, riding tandem atop and over cars and up flights of steps, all rendered hurriedly in crude CGI
  • and finally (but not lastly), the covering by Roxy’s band of David Bowie’s glorious “Suffragette City,” replete with Mary-Kate Olsen artificially supplying the drumwork, as the entire cast dances awkwardly in forced revelry.

And those, briefly, are just the lowlights. A dissertation could be penned on the tragic merits of the sisters’ few dramatic scenes alone. Each shot, each sequence, possesses some costume-jewel of amusing banality which confoundingly both repels and compels.

Of course, New York Minute is, ultimately, nothing more than an expertly calculated assault on a specific demographic of which I hold no claim. Director Dennie Gordon, veteran of countless television projects, guarantees that this just-above-TV-quality production captures the demographically familiar music video aesthetic by employing several needless tropes (split-screening, innumerable montages, compulsory cameos by modern quasi-celebrities). All facets of this film, frankly, stink of financial motives. The Olsen twins, having realized their teen-friendly appeal, continue to provide more of the same and pad their platinum-lined pocketbooks. Richter and Levy, talented comedians, sleepwalk through their humiliating roles to earn a paycheck. The studio, having financed a low-budget, risk-free teen romp, hopes to turn a tidy profit. The Olsen twins, though scarecrow-lithe, do possess genuine likeability and onscreen presence; how interesting it would be to see them separated, in unsafe, challenging roles, in which they’re actually given the opportunity to act. But alas, I am bitter, and I carry on. I am male, in my mid-twenties, and tundra-hearted. New York Minute exists to me solely as an inconsequential slice of the now, entertaining only because it is so flawed, so unfunny. A nine-year-old girl named Elizabeth, dressed in pink with matching ribbons holding aloft her hair, will see this movie with her parents, and she’s going to love it. This film was never meant for me.

—Nathan Baran

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



none now
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