I’ll say upfront that I had a hard time not comparing this film to the Janet Evanovich penned novel on which it’s based. There are 18 Stephanie Plum novels, not to mention the four “between the numbers” novellas. I’ve read nine of the numbered novels and really liked them so needless to say I’m a bit biased. I try my hardest to take films for what they are and not base my opinion on original source material. Some do a great job, and some…..well, not so much. Where does the film adaption of One for the Money fit in?
Sadly, this one falls in the latter category. Based on the first novel of the series, the film follows Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) right after she loses her job running the lingerie department at Macy’s, gets her car repossessed and has to find a way to make some fast cash so she doesn’t get evicted. In short, her life is a complete and utter mess. She goes to her cousin who runs a bail bonds shop looking for work and she ends up becoming a bail bond agent.
This new profession sets her on a path to apprehend ex-lover and high school crush, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara) who just happens to be a cop on the lam trying to prove his innocence. It also introduces her to a cast of characters including Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), the expert bounty hunter who gives her tips of the trade; Lula (Sherri Shepherd), a hooker who gives information in exchange for snacks and Jimmy Alpha (John Leguizamo), the trainer of a fighter that Stephanie crosses paths with on her hunt for Morelli. Stephanie also has to deal with her over bearing mother (Debra Monk) and her fire-cracker Grandma Mazur (Debbie Reynolds).
What this film failed to deliver was a cast of quirky characters with sharp tongues that you can’t help but like even though the lot of them are kind of assholes. What it delivered instead is a paint by the numbers film with uninspired dialogue, no real foundation for character development and a main character that grated the nerves and was actually hard to like and relate to. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone when they wave at the repo man and going for the quick cash instead of looking for work the old-fashioned way.
The plot to the movie isn’t anything special and the audience is forced to look at it through Stephanie’s perspective. There isn’t much going on so instead of trying to anticipate what’s going to happen, we’re left wondering how Stephanie made it this far. Her bumbling antics become tiresome and what is supposed to be the spunky Jersey attitude comes off as irritating. It’s a shame really because as far as the books are concerned, Stephanie is an endearing character. Sure, you question how this former retail worker can make the jump to that of her new profession, but what seemed plausible in the book comes across as downright mind-boggling on film. It’s a shame really because I like Katherine Heigl. I questioned the choice to cast her in this but knowing she’s capable of comedy, I kept my fingers crossed. Unfortunately, this role really didn’t offer much for her at all.
The rest of the cast didn’t have much to work with either. Since you can’t cram a whole book into a 106 minutes, something had to give. The supporting characters were sacrificed for the sake of story and setting up Stephanie’s character. That’s really a shame too, because these supporting characters are a big part of who Stephanie is and who she becomes. The saddest of the sacrifices was with Grandma Mazur. Debbie Reynolds was a great choice, but they failed to give her character any real depth. And don’t even get me started on the casting of Ranger. As much as I loved Daniel Sunjata as Franco on Rescue Me, Ranger called for someone with a little more grit.
This series of books is full of wit and humor and even has its fair share of action. Done properly, it had the potential to become a very lucrative franchise. Roomie and I have talked about casting this film for years. Even before there was talk of it becoming a movie. Both of us agreed that this is a film that should have been done 10 years ago with Sandra Bullock in the lead. Actually, in my opinion, with their penchant for quirky character driven series, this would have made an awesome USA Network series. In that medium, it would have allowed for the supporting cast to grow, and for the audience to get familiar with what makes them tick and not have to be force-fed the least appealing qualities of Stephanie. I guess that idea ranks up there with what this film turned out to be: a missed opportunity.Tags: Daniel Sunjata, Debbie Reynolds, Janet Evanovich, Jason O'Mara, John Leguizamo, Katherine Heigl, One for the Money