An entertaining `Minute'


May 07, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC



New York Minute isn't High Art, but it is highly entertaining, especially if you're a member of its target audience.

That would be pre-teen and young teen girls, and most of them aren't going to need any prodding to see a movie starring their heroes, twin sisters Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen (who used to be known as the Olsen Twins, but are now asking to be seen as separate beings).

What they'll find is a perfectly serviceable teen-age screwball comedy that plays on the twins' considerable charms, surrounding them with highly supportive comedic pros (Eugene Levy, Andy Richter, Andrea Martin) who earn their living making other people look good. The plot may be silly and predictable, the moralizing a little forced, but how many 13-year- olds are going to notice?

And all those parents forced to accompany their youngsters to the theater? You'll be fine; the film is breezy, cheery and a few times even funny. Your kids could do so much worse.

The Olsens play sisters (if they really want to establish separate identities, they may want to pay closer attention to casting next time) who are polar opposites. Jane Ryan (Ashley) is an obsessive over-achiever whose life is dictated by her day planner, which maps out every moment of her life, including bathroom breaks. Sister Roxy (Mary-Kate) is a slacker whose most creative activity is coming up with ways to avoid school and live the punk-teenybopper life (she's the drummer in a band).

The film's plot has them forced to spend the day together when they both get thrown off a train (on a really silly pretense, even for a movie like this). As luck would have it, this is the day Jane is to take part in a speech competition that could earn her a full scholarship to Oxford University; needless to say, she's going to do whatever it takes to get there. Surprisingly, Roxy does what she can to help.

Complicating matters is Richter as a would-be Chinese hoodlum trying to recover a computer chip that ended up in Jane's purse and Levy as a truant officer staking his career on getting Roxy either into school or behind bars. Also complicating matters, though much to the girls' delight, are a pair of young studs they keep running into, both of whom take an instant liking to them and have a habit of showing up at just the right moment.

Thus is the comedy enjoined. Jane and Roxy scamper all over New York City, overcoming obstacles and having the sort of day young girls dream about, filled with cute guys, music-video shoots, hair stylists and wardrobe changes. The Ryan sisters may despair that these things are keeping them from their goal, but the Olsens' fans are going to wish they could be so unlucky.

Ashley and Mary-Kate, who have been performing in front of the camera since they were 9 months old (they were a mainstay of TV's Full House) are adept performers who manage to keep their cuteness from becoming cloying. Director Dennie Gordon keeps things moving at such a rapid clip, and with such good cheer, that there's little time to dwell on the ridiculousness of the whole confection. Both Levy and Richter have some genuinely funny moments.

Sure, New York Minute is formulaic fluff, but it goes down easy. And yes, the movie displays a rather unsettling propensity for showing the Olsens in various states of near-undress, sporting towels, bathrobes, torn skirts (perhaps the filmmakers are hoping some teen boys find their way into theaters, too).

Basically, this is a film that knows its audience and gives them what they want. Thankfully, it knows its audience's parents as well, and makes sure that New York Minute never feels like an eternity.

New York Minute

Starring Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Eugene Levy

Directed by Dennie Gordon

Rated PG (mild sensuality and thematic elements)

Released by Warner Bros.

Time 91 minutes

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