According to a list Justin Souther kindly sent me, there seem to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 “Stephanie Plum” novels by Janet Evanoich—plus some holiday novellas. God save us if One for the Money catches on. It’s not so much that it’s actively bad, only that it’s frightfully lame. It’s the sort of movie that is hard to dislike exactly. It’s too inconsequential. If I were casually watching TV and came acros sit, I wouldn’t start searching for the remote control on sight, but further than that I’m not going. And the idea of a series of these movies doesn’t fill me with glee.
Heigl—as essentially charmless as ever—plays Stephanie Plum, a Jersey girl down on her luck. She’s just been divorced, she has no job, her car is about to be repossessed—and worst of all, she has to tell her parents. In fact, while she’s breaking the news to them—sending Ma Plum (TV actress Debra Monk) into husband-hunting mode—her car is towed off. Not to worry, because movie-eccentric Grandma Mazur (Debbie Reynolds) will hand Stephanie the keys to a gigantic boat of a Buick in a scene or so. In the meantime, Stephanie will blackmail her way into a bounty-hunter job from her sleazy bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie (Patrick Fischler).
That’s the set-up. The real plot is about Stephanie bringing in Joe Morelli (TV actor Jason O’Mara), a cop with a murder rap hanging over him, who has jumped bail. Not only does his capture offer $50,000, but, you see, back in high school Stephanie gave Joe her virginity—then never called her. Since that must be about 16 years ago, it’s fair to say the girl can hold a grudge—especially when we find out she’s already run over him with car. All this, of course, means that Joe isn’t guilty (at least of murder), and that the story will turn into a case of proving his innocence amid a lot of tepid suspense, less-than-scintillating comedy, tedious romantic-bickering banter, and a lot of ogling the Heiglian cleavage.
It’s rarely all that funny. It’s never effectively suspenseful. The romance is strictly rote. As a mystery, One for the Money succumbs to the Hollywood 101 rule of “when you have a name actor in a small role, he or she will invariably turn out to be the guilty party.” In this case, it hardly matters because you probably don’t care who the villain is anyway. Still, in the film’s favor, it’s slightly less obnoxious than the last Katherine Heigl picture I saw, The Ugly Truth (2009), and a whole lot less so than the last bounty hunter rom-com, The Bounty Hunter (2010). That is not, however, a recommendation. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity.