Folks from New Jersey are used to having their home state insulted. Other than Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey is best known for being home to Tony Soprano, Snooki and her boorish buds, and all those spectacularly ill-mannered, big-haired gals on Bravo’s "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."
Katherine Heigl is now adding insult to injury for Jerseyites. In “One for the Money,” a flaccid comic crime drama which she also produced, she plays a Jersey girl with an accent so broad it makes Joe Piscopo’s old “I’m from Jersey” routines on “Saturday Night Live” sound subtle.
Compounding the offense, the film wasn’t even shot in New Jersey. That’s Pittsburgh and nearby spots in western Pennsylvania masquerading as Trenton, New Jersey’s capital city, in the movie.
Heigl plays Stephanie Plum. Plum is the bounty hunter heroine of 18 popular mysteries by bestselling novelist Janet Evanovich. In print, Plum is blue collar, mouthy, brave in spite of herself, and funny. In this misfire of a movie, at least as awkwardly played by Heigl, she mostly is just annoying.
At the start of “Money,” Plum is down on her luck, being both newly divorced and unemployed. Desperate for a job, she gets hired as a bounty hunter by her sleazy bail bondsman cousin. Her first assignment is to track down Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara), a Trenton cop accused of murder who also happens to be an old, sort of flame of hers.
“Money’s” works overtime to make its plot and characters colorful with the end result being that it feels forced. Director Julie Anne Robinson (“The Last Song”), who teamed previously with Heigl on “Gray’s Anatomy,” never lets the movie relax into its own rhythms.
Heigl, sporting tousled brunette locks, gives a busy, unconvincing performance. The Irish-born O’Mara (“Terra Nova”) and Daniel Sunjata (“Rescue Me”) — he plays Ranger, an experienced bounty hunter who shows Plum the ropes — provide male eye candy. O’Mara, an actor of both charm and intensity, just seems hopped up and silly here, while Sunjata comes off better as the uber-cool Ranger.
Old pro Debbie Reynolds pops up in a few scenes as Stephanie’s eccentric grandmother; she mugs outrageously but at least she nails her laughs.
Watching “Money,” one is sadly reminded of “V.I. Warshawski,” the abysmal 1991 movie with Kathleen Turner, which was based on a bestselling series of mystery novels by author Sara Paretsky about a private investigator in Chicago. In both “Warshawki” and “Money,” a beloved female character, one loaded with personality and potential, becomes far less appealing on the screen than on the page. More’s the pity.