Harmless, sweet and sprightly -- but wholly devoid of original thought -- "New York Minute" is the surprisingly smile-inducing big-screen debut of straight-to-video 'tween-queen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who have made millions off of 8- to 12-year-old wannabes not yet versed enough in movies or culture to know a shopworn cliché when they see one.
This picture is basically more of the same, but with a slightly sharper sense of admittedly lowbrow humor that for the first time gives the bright-eyed 17-year-olds an appeal beyond their fan base of admiring little girls (and unsavory old men).
The girls, of course, play polar-opposite sisters from the New Jersey suburbs -- Ashley is uptight, conservative and studious, Mary-Kate is an innocuous punkette rebel and the (very unconvincing) drummer in a band -- who in the course of one crazy day in Manhattan come to a greater appreciation of each other's individuality.
Ashley's there, dressed like the president of the Young Republicans club, to give a speech that could win her a scholarship to Oxford. Her wild-child sibling has come hoping to slip a demo CD to the record label suits at a big music video shoot. But nothing goes according to plan after they both get thrown off their commuter train (Mary-Kate didn't have a ticket and the porter somehow can't tell that stuffy Ashley isn't the same girl), then stupidly accept a suspiciously free ride from a strange limo driver (Andy Richter).
It seems a microchip containing pirated music worth millions to Hong Kong bootleggers has been slipped into Mary-Kate's purse (oh, brother!) and the driver is an inept henchman sent to get it back. Soon the girls are on the run from not only Richter (who wants to fit in with his crime family so badly that he speaks in a pathetically fake Chinese accent), but also from an overzealous truant officer (Eugene Levy, who can find the humor in any lame character) obsessed with catching perpetual class-ditcher Mary-Kate.
In the course of their adventure, each meets a cute boy (of course!), Ashley breaks a heel off her shoe (how original!), their clothes get messed up in order to pad the picture with a music-video shopping montage (naturally!), a dog eats the microchip (sure! why not?), and they end up on the ledge outside a hotel window wearing nothing but towels. ("Is it my birthday?" says the guy who catches them dressed that way in his room.) Oh, and don't forget -- Ashley still has to get to her scholarship speech on time.
Hackneyed to be sure, "New York Minute" gets enough mileage out of the twins' infectious vivacity, its boundless energy and its modest cheekiness (see "Is it my birthday?" quote above) to balance out its unimaginative plot and its improbable finale, which is capped by the inevitably trite, "Today has made me realize something..." speech.
Its bigger problems come from the fact that the Olsens still look 14, so it's a little creepy when they're kissed by their older love interests, and from the fact that director Dennie Gordon (who last year plied the same target audience with the even stupider "What a Girl Wants") seems to prefer stereotypes to characters (anyone Chinese, black or gay in this movie is drawn with a shamefully broad brush).
Less offensive but still exasperating to lovers of music and movies are the abominable rendition of David Bowie's "Suffragette City" performed by Mary-Kate's band and the unjustified audacity of the Warner Bros. publicity department, which has dared compare the wholly derivative "New York Minute" to the wildly innovative "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
But the Olson twins -- who despite being quite pretty don't need the clumsy pratfalling of Hilary Duff, Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan to make them seem accessible and average -- have the charisma to help this movie earn the grins it needs to satisfy parents and others dragged along with the less-demanding fans already inclined to see it.
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th May 2004
Box Office USA: $14.0M
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Dualstar Entertainment Group, DiNovi Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 11%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 104
IMDB: 4.7 / 10
Director: Dennie Gordon
Starring: Ashley Olsen as Jane Ryan, Mary-Kate Olsen as Roxy Ryan, Eugene Levy as Max Lomax, Andy Richter as Bennie Bang, Riley Smith as Jim, Simple Plan as Themselves, Drew Pinsky as Dr. Ryan, Darrell Hammond as Hudson McGill, Andrea Martin as Senator Anne Lipton, Bob Saget as Himself, Jack Osbourne as Justin, The Naked Cowboy as Himself, Ernest Borgnine as Himself
Also starring: Jared Padalecki