One for the Money, the new Katherine Heigl vehicle based on the popular Janet Evanovich book series, is now playing at a local theater near you. Since One for the Money was not screened early for critics, Alison Willmore (of the A.V. Club and Movieline) plunked down United States currency to see One for the Money at an overnight midnight showing. As I read her review at Movieline, it became obvious that an obsessive chat was necessary. (Spoiler alerts, obviously.)
Mike: I saw One for the Money at a junket screening, so your memory of this movie is going to be a lot better than mine.
Alison: I suppose there are people out there somewhere who might enjoy this film, but I don’t want to know them.
Mike: Were there any at your midnight screening?
Alison: Well, there were probably about 10 people, including a couple who were actively complaining by the end of the film.
Mike: I want to know who these people are that have to see One for the Money at midnight on the day it opens.
Alison: Well, the books (which I haven’t read) are huge bestsellers — there are 18 of them.
Mike: So huge Janet Evanovich fans?
Alison: There’s a theoretical built-in fan base, at least, though I don’t know how happy they will be about how the character is translated to screen.
Mike: So, Alison, what did you think of One for the Money?
Alison: One for the Money is a very awkward mix of your typical Katherine Heigl romantic comedy, in which she and her love interest snipe at each other until they fall into each other’s arms, and an oddly carefree depiction of someone leaping carelessly and with no preparation into the potentially dangerous world of bounty hunting. The way that murders are presented as, well, inconveniences in our heroine’s personal life is particularly strange.
Mike: Do you want to know my favorite part?
Alison: Yes, please.
Mike: When Debbie Reynolds is playing with a loaded gun at dinner — and no one seems to care. She shoots the turkey. Shoots it!
Alison: And everyone’s like, OH, GRANDMA!
Mike: And this is perceived as normal behavior. Think about that. Think about being at a dinner in which the main course is shot with a pistol. I would run and I would call the authorities.
Alison: The gun is a strange problem from the beginning, when “Ranger” buys it for Stephanie because she DOESN’T HAVE A LICENSE! Because she doesn’t know how to use a gun!
Mike: And never feels compelled to get a license.
Alison: Did you also find the running gag about her fumbling for the gun in her purse at dangerous moment infuriating?
Mike: Yes, Plaxico Burress went to prison for that.
Alison: Maybe this film is a stealth cautionary tale about gun control?
Mike: As in, “Look what happens when not smart people use guns.”
Alison: If Katherine Heigl can get a gun and allow her grandmother to shoot dinner with it, WE NEED STRICTER LAWS!
Mike: So the premise of this movie is that Stephanie wants to collect the bounty on her old flame, Joe Morelli, a former cop who skipped bail. I counted: She literally runs into him five times without bringing him in. But she jokes with him, “I’m going to get you, Morelli. I don’t know how, but I’ll get you.” He’s standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. You have a gun! “Get” him now!
Alison: He’s also on the hook for possibly killing someone in cold blood, but what actually gets her so fired up is that he never called her after sleeping with her in high school. The whole premise of this film is about a woman getting into a tough, male-dominated business, but the motivating factor is that she was jilted as a teenager.
Mike: And he’s almost 40.
Alison: Yeah, how old are they supposed to be? She’s divorced. They seem a little past festering high-school grudges. So Stephanie needs cash, having been fired from her lingerie salesperson job six months ago and basically blackmails her cousin into hiring her and letting her take on his biggest case for her first gig.
Mike: I know! No experience whatsoever. “Here, go bring in an ex-cop. It will be fine.” To be fair: She finds him immediately. I mean, within seconds.
Alison: Which makes you wonder what fellow bounty hunter Fisher Stevens was doing the whole time since it was his case before she snagged it.
Mike: Let’s talk about him.
Alison: And how he immediately dies? Wait, are we discussing spoilers?
Mike: Yes, we are.
Mike: So, Fisher Stevens tries to start Joe Morelli’s vehicle. It explodes.
Alison: Yes, he goes up in a ball of flame.
Mike: The reaction to this is, Morelli complains about his vehicle, then Katherine Heigl starts laughing. A man just died a gruesome death. A death that was supposed to be for Heigl. That seemed like a bizarre reaction.
Alison: More than bizarre, a little sociopathic — which is why they’re meant to be as a couple, I suppose. In Trenton, are car bombings just a normal day-to-day thing?
Mike: Have you been to Trenton?
Alison: I can’t say I have, are cars on fire all the time there?
Mike: I don’t know. Everything that I know about Trenton is from this movie. So I have to say, “Yes.”
Alison: From the movie, I’ve learned the Trenton accent uniquely fades in and out depending on one’s mood and whether one is delivering a voiceover. Oh, so how about Ranger? Is he not the most hilarious character?
Alison: His name is Ranger, and he wears body armor all the time! And he’s “Michelangelo’s David dipped in caramel.”
Mike: I love that when she’s handcuffed naked to her shower by Morelli, she calls Ranger, a stranger, rather than her own parents to help her. ”I trust him.”
Alison: And that he’s at an underground poker game when she calls.
Mike: I love that we had the chance to learn a little bit about how Ranger spends his free time.
Alison: So here’s my question for you, Mike — is this the Twilight of bounty hunter movies?
Mike: Was Bounty Hunter not the Twilight of bounty hunting movies? Or are you saying that this is going to become an 18-part saga?
Alison: Well, hopefully not the latter. But One for the Money is based around Stephanie getting rescued at least as often as she successfully uncovers something about the mystery around which the movie revolves.
Mike: Speaking of that mystery: I’ll give One for the Money credit for being so bold as to allude that a character, the fighter, might be the bad guy — then have him turn out to be the bad guy.
Alison: True, though there’s also a secret bad guy who, in the second-most head-slappy moment in the film, Stephanie allows to pick up a gun and follow her and Morelli back to an enclosed space.
Mike: She actually says, “Thank God you’re here.” Yes, “thank God” this character that you’ve spent three minutes of your life with is not only here, but now has a gun. Fun fact: This movie took 15 years to make.
Alison: They were holding out for that Katherine Heigl magic?
Mike: They saw her in My Father the Hero and said to themselves, “We’ll wait. We’ll wait for her.” OK, last thing: Are you looking forward to Two For the Show? Also: I have no idea if that’s what the second book is called.
Alison: I believe it’s Two for the Dough.
Mike: OK, let me rephrase: Are you looking forward to Two for the Dough?
Alison: Really, if this franchise belongs anywhere, it’s as a show on USA — there’s nothing about this production that needs to be on the big screen, or that benefits from it.
Mike: Morelli and Plum are not the on-screen duo of the next decade?
Alison: It’s more about the sitcom-like situations, like Debbie Reynolds shooting the roast, than it is about the cases. Heigl and O’Mara do have a kind of anti-chemistry. They seem genuinely irritated by each other on screen.
Mike: I’m under the impression that Heigl has that with a lot of people.
Alison: It’s true, it’s really her great gift as an actress, to bring out genuine animosity. So much so that the film doesn’t get around to actually showing them kissing.
Mike: So… you’re saying you’d see Two for the Dough just for that payoff kiss?
Alison: HAH. I refuse to consider Two for the Dough as a legitimate option — I think this film franchise is doomed to not take off.
Alison Wilmore is a contributor to AV Club and Movieline. You can follow her on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for “Wired” Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, “New York” Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.