Stanley Kubrick once said, 'If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.' Obviously, he had never seen the script for New York Minute.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

Truth in advertising! Truth in advertising! This is nothing like a minute! If only. This is ninety-one minutes. And it feels like ninety-one hours. Mary-Kate, Ashley, how could you do this to us?

"New York Minute," from 2004, is I believe only the second big-screen theatrical release the Olsen twins have starred in after about eight hundred direct-to-video and TV productions. "Our Lips Are Sealed" seems to have been their first movie-house venture, but somehow I missed it. "New York Minute" more than makes up for it in sheer mindlessness.

OK, I admit I do not nor ever have understood the Olsen mystique. I'm told they are the delight of young teen girls everywhere, but having little in common with young teen girls, the mystical power and attraction of the Olsens eludes me. In this film, they're downright boring.

Apparently, the appeal of the Olsens has been their bubbly effervescence, which must have worked when they were youngers, but now that they're older they just seem like a couple of young women of no appreciable talent who happen to look alike. This is not to suggest they have no talent, by the way; it's that they aren't given a chance to display any talent in this film.

Stanley Kubrick once said, "If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed." Obviously, he had never seen the script for "New York Minute." It's like filming a movie about a fence post. The most notable comparison that comes to mind when I think of "New York Minute" is "From Justin to Kelly," where the filmmakers had two momentary stars, two "American Idols," on their hands and didn't know what to do with them. So, they were thrown into a nonexistent plot where they simply floundered around. Thus it goes with poor Mary-Kate and Ashley as well.

If the twins had been working for Disney, no doubt they would have been thrown into yet another remake of "The Parent Trap." They aren't, and they weren't. They're in a segmented, loosely structured, nonsensical semi-adventure in the Big Apple that appears to be no more than what I'm told they have always been doing--loosely structured TV shows and videos capitalizing on their being two identical pretty girls.

What happens in another couple of years when enthusiasm wans for a pair of identical adults? Will they go their separate ways, split apart like Siamese twins? Indeed, if ticket sales are any indication, enthusiasm for the Olsens has already diminished considerably. The film earned back only half its production costs at the box office.

"New York Minute" is a cross between "The Odd Couple" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," the twins playing sisters of opposite tastes who go off for a day's excursion in the city, pursued by a wacked-out truant officer. The girls are high school students of decidedly contrary habits. Jane Ryan (Ashley) is a smart, conservative, straight-A scholar and anal-retentive perfectionist. How fastidious is she? She uses a toilet-seat liner in her own bathroom! Roxie Ryan (Mary-Kate), on the other hand, is wild and scattered. Her room's a mess, she dresses flamboyantly, drums in a rock band, and holds the school record for truancies.

They live with their father, a widower, in a New York suburb and are both heading for the city on the same day, Jane with the permission of her school to compete for an Oxford fellowship and Roxie without permission to attend a video shoot. They wind up together in a series of absurd adventures involving a stolen microchip, a dim-witted goon (Andy Richter), a strange dog, two cute guys (Riley Smith and Jared Padalecki), and Eugene Levy as the aforementioned truant officer. Poor Levy gets stuck in too many of these lame affairs. His role is nowhere near as funny as Jeffrey Jones's vice principal in "Ferris Bueller," nor is anything else in the movie funny. Instead, it's all rather tiresome.

What we've got is a script by the numbers in which not a minute, New York or otherwise, not even a second, rings true. Yet it's not meant to be comedy of the absurd or outrageous or satiric or parodic or even farcical. It's not much of anything, to tell you the truth, except a showcase for the two young women's dubious talent for simply being themselves. It's not enough. The whole thing is brainless and silly, with the same loud, repetitious children's rock music pounding away behind every scene and every movement the girls make.

There is also an unusually large amount of infantile bathroom humor and implied nudity involved. There are at least three scenes that take place in and around toilets, and Jane manages to be in two sequences entirely unclothed. However, as this is a squeaky clean, PG-rated, Olsen-twins movie, the audience never sees more than a shoulder blade. Clearly, the film wants it both ways: It wants the girls to play grown-up, but it knows they are not quite ready for it yet; so, it toys around with semi-questionable, peekaboo material.

The twins eventually wind up in a sewer, possibly the best place for the movie. "New York Minute" is a genuine, certified, verifiable shambles.

The colors in this 1.74:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen transfer are deep and dark and bright, perhaps too dark and bright for naturalness. The feeling one gets is that of watching a brightly lit cartoon, which is probably the point. Detail is not the best in most scenes, either, and object delineation is only so-so. To be fair, however, a few shots look perfect. On the whole, there is no grain to speak of, no halos, no jittery lines, no pixilation of any sort. It's about what you'd expect in a new movie of this kind.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio exhibits exemplary front-channel stability, a wide stereo spread, and lots and lots of "presence"; that is, an elevated upper midrange and lower treble that makes voices and music stand out and hit you hard. Unfortunately, it means voices and music are usually hard and metallic, too, but that's not uncommon to most modern pop-music recordings, anyway. There is not much in the way of deep bass, nor is there much use of the surround channels. It's an odd oversight.

Like the mediocre picture and sound, the extras are also about what you would expect. There's a fourteen-minute making-of featurette, "In a New York Minute," that works as an extended promotional trailer rather than providing any real insight into anything. I can't imagine what I expected insight into, but.... Then, there's "Mary-Kate and Ashley's Behind-the-Scenes Slide Show," a three-minute stills gallery. Five minutes worth of alternative endings and three minutes of bloopers account for a further waste of one's time. And things conclude with twenty-three scene selections; a widescreen theatrical trailer; English and French spoken languages; and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Parting Shots:
I'm struggling here to find something, anything, in the slightest that might be nice to say about a film in which I distinctly had little interest and very little in common. The Olsens are at an age when they are going to have to grow up some time and leave these juvenile antics behind, but I suppose they have a right to make all the money they can while they are still able. It's hard for me as a film lover to say I'm glad a movie failed at the box office, but, in fact, I'm gladdened to see the public didn't get sucked into this thing. It renews my faith in the average filmgoer.


Film Value