Review: ‘One for the Money’ Wallows in Mediocrity

By  · Published on January 28th, 2012

For those of you who may not be aware, this weekend’s new release One for the Money is based on a series of books about struggling bounty hunter Stephanie Plum written by Janet Evanovich. I’ve read them all, as well as most of Evanovich’s other work and I’d definitely count myself a fan. The writing, which admittedly gets better as the series goes along, is sharp and witty and fun to read. Unfortunately the film version turned out flat and tepid and very middle of the road.

Stephanie Plum is a little down on her luck. After losing her job working the unmentionables counter at Macy’s, she’s languished for 6 months looking for work. Finding none, and with the rent past due and her car already repossessed she tries her last resort working for her sleazy cousin Vinnie. The thing is, Vinnie runs a bail bonds office and Stephanie knows absolutely nothing about being a bounty hunter. Of course that doesn’t stop her. With help from a suave and experienced bounty hunter known as Ranger, Stephanie sets her sights on Joe Morelli, a cop who skipped out on a $500,000 bond. And while it seems like Joe might be innocent, Stephanie could sure use the $50,000 she’d get for bringing him in. If only she could remember where she put her gun…

The biggest problem with the film isn’t a tangible specific item. With a few notable exceptions, most of the dialogue is decent, the acting is OK, the cinematography is acceptable and so on and so forth. Instead the feel and tone are off, not just off from the feel and tone of the book, but taken on its own the film feels plastic and false, like a can of soda that’s sat out too long and lost its fizz. It’s shiny and polished but it doesn’t amount to much.

While the tone is the biggest issue with the film, the specific items like dialogue, acting and storytelling are problematic in how unremarkable they are. There are flaws that can be pointed out, things like the handling of Stephanie’s best friend Mary Lou, who Stephanie talks to on the phone maybe a half dozen times throughout the film even though the character is barely if ever actually introduced. In fact, her name is only mentioned once at most, leaving most of the audience wondering who this soccer mom is that Heigl seems to need to talk to every 15–20 minutes. Critics will also no doubt point out the scene in which a character reaches for a table clearly covered in drug particles and pulls back a hand absolutely covered in white powder which he then proceeds to smell and declare to be heroin. Why an entire fistful is necessary we will never know. But ultimately these types of flaws are fairly minor.

If you go in hating Katherine Heigl, this is certainly not the film that will change your mind. She’s front and center and narrates pretty much the entire film with her character’s stream of consciousness. But if you’re able to stand her, she’s surprisingly not awful in this role, playing frazzled and bumbling relatively well if unexceptionally. Everything about the film is middling. The cinematography is fine but uninspired with the few action scenes looking more like a TV movie. The acting is OK but unremarkable, the dialogue mostly avoids eye rolls but doesn’t gain any earned laughs either. It is the very definition of a movie that just exists, a fleeting film so forgettable, you won’t remember it once your shoes hit the pavement of the parking lot.

The Upside: Heigl does a decent job of trying to bring Stephanie Plum to life and manages not to be too grating in the process.

The Downside: Tone feels like everyone’s trying a little too hard to be funny without ever really succeeding.

On the Side: It’s interesting that Heigl’s ample and bouncy chest is clearly on display throughout most of the film considering that the Stephanie Plum of the books was specifically stated to be far less endowed.