Considering the billion-dollar empire they have created for themselves and their widespread success in the direct-to-video market, it is bizarre that 17-year-old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen haven't had a theatrically released feature film since 1995's winning "It Takes Two." They had nine years to find just the right next project. They should have looked harder. "New York Minute," directed by Dennie Gordon (2003's "What a Girl Wants
"), wastes the talents of an eclectic cast in a terminally lame teen comedy with a grade-school mentality. While it is true that the bulk of the Olsen's fanbase are probably preteens, the Olsen's themselves are simply too old now to be participating in such childish, dim-witted antics as "New York Minute" has to offer.
Long Islanders Roxy (Mary-Kate Olsen) and Jane Ryan (Ashley Olsen) may be twins, but they are as outwardly different as night and day. While Jane is a prim, proper, straight-A student hoping to snag a scholarship to Oxford University, Roxy is the hardcore drummer of an aspiring rock band and repeated skipper of school. With Jane scheduled to give a speech that will decide the fate of her college career and Roxy determined to get her demo CD to punk band Simple Plan while they shoot a music video, the two of them are forced to travel together into Manhattan for the day.
Things, of course, do not go as planned. They are thrown off the train headed into the city; get a ride from a criminal limousine driver (Andy Richter) who wants a microchip of pirated music and movies that was dropped into Jane's purse; are pursued by Roxy's obsessive truant officer, Max Lomax (Eugene Levy); and progressively have their clothes ruined and then stripped off of them. As Roxy and Jane do everything in their power to make it to the music video and scholarship ceremony on time, they come to discover just how much they have missed each other.
"New York Minute" has too many thankless subplots that go nowhere, too many characters for any of them to make an impression, and too much forced slapstick that gets in the way of the movie's heartfelt core relationship between estranged sisters Roxy and Jane. To want viewers to draw a comparison to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," which all involved seem to intend, is plainly offensive toward that durable and incendiary 1986 teenage classic. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was genuinely clever, hilarious, original, and achingly realadjectives that will undoubtedly never be used to describe this half-hearted knockoff.
Instead, "New York Minute" is 85 minutes of painfully lame comedy and lugubrious action surrounding a single great scene near the end of the second act, in which Roxy and Jane experience a heated confrontation about their long-simmering resentment toward each other on the streets of Times Square. At that moment, all of the film's barriersits annoyingly unfunny faux-humor; its ridiculous, gimmick-ridden plotting; its low-rent car chases and fight scenescome crashing down for a quiet, truthful five-minute interlude that makes you actually care about and sympathize with these two characters.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are charming performers and they make an effortless transition to the big screen regardless of the poor material (special kudos for playing two distinct characters whom the viewer never confuses), but it is this aforementioned dramatic scene that really showcases just how capable they are of hitting home real emotions. It is too bad, then, that the picture promptly resumes its immaturity directly afterward, pleasing 10-year-olds and no one else in the process. To add insult to injury, any movie that squanders so recklessly the comic talents of Eugene Levy (2003's "A Mighty Wind
") deserves to be lead out into the woods and shot. Levy is funny by nature, so the fact that he doesn't garner one laugh in his role as truant officer Lomax (a pale imitation of Jeffrey Jones' Principal Rooney in "Ferris Bueller") is frankly absurd. In supporting roles, Andy Richter (2003's "My Boss's Daughter
") is awful in the most patience-testing subplot (involving the microchip of pirated software), while Jared Padalecki (2003's "Cheaper by the Dozen
") and Riley Smith (1978's "Eight Legged Freaks
") are Roxy and Jane's undernourished, too-old-for-them love interests.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have sold themselves way short with "New York Minute." They are clearly bright, savvy young women and have undeniable screen presence. They could have branched out with this transitional career move and proven that they are more than just pretty faces who make lowest-common-denominator 'tween fare. Regrettably, "New York Minute" is content to be dumb, condescending, and cut off from the reality of what it is really like to be a teenager on the verge of adulthood. It could have been so much more.