REEL CRITIC:

My first impression of this film left me thinking that Renee Zellweger probably took on this project while she was waiting for something better to come along, but on second thought, “New in Town” is actually not a bad film at all. It is a comedy/drama that could just as well have aired on any number of TV stations, but I rather enjoyed it.

The story itself runs along formulaic lines that is, girl comes to new town to reorganize the local factory, girl alienates herself from towns-folk by making questionable decisions regarding the town's biggest employer, then redeems herself by making the “right decision,” the one she should have made all along.

I am really not giving anything away. We all know how this will wrap up after the first five minutes or so. The story line is certainly nothing new, but the things that hold this film together are the laugh-out-loud situations and the gentle humanity that comes to define the relationships of the characters on the screen.

Most of the action takes place in a small Minnesota town in the dead of a miserable winter, and the good citizens are facing the same serious problems related to the current economic situation that is gripping the rest of the country. Businesses are closing left and right, and rumors abound among the labor force here in New Ulm, Minn., that appears to be just down the road from Fargo.

The “dead of winter” setting allows the true nature of this film to shine through the bleak backdrop. I am immediately reminded of “My Life as a Dog” and the more recent “Lars and the Real Girl,” two films that I have always dearly loved. As in those two films, most of the mailboxes here in New Ulm carry Scandinavian surnames, the names of people who originated in the cold, spare climate of northern Europe, folks who know the value of cooperation, sharing and down-home kindness, the sort of values that everyone cherishes.

Folks here in New Ulm have an interesting way of expressing themselves don't-cha know, similar to the folks from “Fargo,” and two members of the cast are especially noteworthy.

J.K. Simmons as Stu Kopenhafer, the shop steward and plant foreman, keeps things moving with the flat, nasal-prairie-accent schtick and filmgoers will fondly remember Simmons as Juno's dad from the big comedy hit of the same name that played a couple of years ago.

Also, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, another employee “down at the plant” and author of the town's much coveted tapioca recipe, helped flesh out this production. Hogan reminded me of Frances McDormand's Marge, the endearing yet relentless lady cop from “Fargo.” Everyone should remember that role.

Rated PG for occasional bouts of rough language, “New in Town” has a running time of one hour and 36 minutes and is playing citywide.


?JEFF KLEMZAK is a longtime film fan and resides in La Crescenta. ?JEFF KLEMZAK is a longtime film fan and resides in La Crescenta.

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