New York Minute
Directed by Dennie Gordon. Starring Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Eugene Levy, Andy Richter, Darrell Hammond, Andrea Martin, Drew Pinsky. (2004, PG, 91 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., May 7, 2004
I’ve seen Andy Richter do a lot of sad things. Here’s the topper: As the "number one adopted son" of a Chinatown crime dynasty, he bedevils the Olsens over a microchip swallowed by a Chinese crested dog (animal actors Gala and Krissy) – speaking, all the while, in pidgin English. Cabin Boy was less embarrassing. For the tweens who comprise Mary-Kate and Ashley’s core fan base, this big-city farce is probably like a trip to the moon. Cute nonthreatening boys (Riley Smith and Jared Padalecki of Gilmore Girls), a big budget, lots of location exteriors, music-video montages galore, and endless flogging of "punk rock band" A Simple Plan. For anyone over the age of 13 – chronologically and psychologically – it’s as agonizing as a sucking chest wound. "I’m in hell!" shouts co-star Hammond, squeezed between the Olsens on a commuter train, and we agree. To maximize the pain, director Gordon (Joe Dirt) treats us to split-screens of the twins whenever they’re separated by the script. You know the drill: Ashley is the smart, serious one (she wears glasses and carries a planner), and Mary-Kate is the goofball (she plays drums), and they love-hate each other while dragging around the memory of their dead mother (think Full House) on one Very Important Day that will teach them the true meaning of family. Nothing about this movie is more sophisticated than the girls’ straight-to-video fare, aside from the product placements (anyone for a Red Bull?) and the cameos (Jack Osbourne seems to have met with a captive-bolt cattle stunner). For the fans, is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Some parents could probably write off New York Minute as a harmless celluloid diversion; indeed, the tweens in the audience seemed to appreciate it. Look a little more closely, though, and it’s just plain squicky – and not just when the girls murder David Bowie’s poor, innocent "Suffragette City." For one, you can’t swing a minibackpack in this movie without hitting a painful ethnic stereotype, such as the helpful soul sisters (and one extraordinarily swishy soul brother) at Big Shirl’s House of Bling, an urban salon. (Naturally, the scene occasions a makeover montage; even the dog gets a weave.) Later, the movie beats viewers over the head with an anti-piracy message as Ashley literally hurls counterfeit DVDs at the camera. It’s her most animated moment. And then there’s the little problem of the Olsens’ sexuality. New York Minute is the kind of winking, disingenuous youth comedy that tries to play it both ways, dangling the twins as fetish objects and then yanking them back on the leash because, you know, this is a family film. ("Am I squashing you?" Smith asks, when he falls on Ashley after a bicycling mishap. "Yeah," she replies. "It feels great.") This sexual doublethink is potentially damaging to teen girls – on the one hand, they’re supposed to totter around on wedge heels in miniskirts, but on the other they’re supposed to be pure in thought and deed. Worse, it’s insulting to its audience, who can see right through it.