One for the Money (2012)

(On-demand Video, June 2012) If shouldn’t be a surprise if a fluffy romantic crime-comedy novel ends up being adapted as a fluffy romantic crime-comedy film.  Janet Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series is a formulaic blend of criminal laughs and romantic thrills, and this big-screen adaptation generally operates in the same vicinity.  Katherine Heigl looks good as a curly brunette protagonist who turns to bounty-hunting, and her attitude is more or less faithful to the novel as well.  (Heigl won’t allow Plum to be anything but glammed-up, though: no baggy clothes on display here.)  Plot-wise, One for the Money can’t escape the limitations of the original novel, which conveniently has the heroine chasing after an ex-flame and repeatedly meeting him thanks to the flimsiest of coincidences.  The plot is filled with contrivances and happenstance (which doesn’t really matter), as well as sudden shifts of tone and casually dismissed violence (which matters considerably more).  There are also a few issues of stereotyping and sexism that don’t work as well on-screen than in an unabashedly romantic novel.  To be fair, tone is tricky in a criminal romantic comedy, and novels operate on slightly more forgiving grounds than films.  What seems OK on the page can feel silly on-screen, and that’s where One for the Money loses some credibility.  While the film is intended to launch a franchise based on the seventeen other novels in the Plum series, that project seems like a non-starter at the Cineplex: There isn’t enough going on here, and a TV miniseries may have served the project better.  What is on-screen isn’t terrible, but it’s not much either: it’s almost instantly forgettable, leading one to suspect that there will never be a Two for the Show.

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