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Published: Saturday, 1/28/2012 - Updated: 4 years ago

'One for the Money' can't stop Katherine Heigl's freefall


On today's edition of "Smart Women, Stupid Choices": Katherine Heigl! She left a halfway decent medical soap opera for a string of increasingly mediocre, decreasingly romantic "comedies" pairing her with increasingly bland leading men.

She might have thought she'd landed a plum (ahem) when she secured the rights to Janet Evanovich's Jersey bounty hunter heroine Stephanie Plum. But One for the Money, which Heigl also produced, is a malnourished exercise in star vanity, a film built around an actress so insecure she surrounds herself with non-threatening no-name actors who make no impression at all.

And didn't Jennifer Aniston already do a bounty hunter movie? Talk about sloppy seconds.

Not to pick on TV actor Jason O'Mara, playing the cop and ex-beau that newbie bounty huntress Stephanie dogs in the film, but ... who? She's gone from co-starring with Gerard Butler and Josh Duhamel and Ashton Kutcher to O'Mara, who is competent and easy/hunky on the eyes. But charisma? Chemistry? MIA.

Heigl traded down to TV and Last Son sob sister Julie Anne Robinson for a director, and then let her pack Stephanie's world with the blandest supporting cast ever. That makes for the most colorless movie this side of Oscar favorite The Artist. (It's in black and white, for you Heigl fans who don't get out much.)

Stephanie's lost her job selling lingerie at the Newark Macy's and just lost her car to the repo guys. She needs cash, or something, at least, to share with her dull, stereotypical blue-collar family. Loony granny (Debbie Reynolds, not her finest hour) is the only one who understands.

"Good judgment is for sissies!"

So the hot lingerie saleswoman hits up a relative (Patrick Fischler) for a piece of his bail bond business, skiptracing folks who miss their court appearances and cost the bondsman money. She needs a big score, so she tackles killer cop Joe Morelli (O'Mara), whose bond was pretty steep, a guy she has history with. Yeah, she lost her virginity to Joe, back in the day. Trenton's a small town, and Jersey girls and Jersey boys swim in a tiny pond.

"We're ancient history," Joe smirks, on seeing his pursuer. "Like the pyramids, baby!"

Stephanie learns on the job, chasing Joe. Sometimes, he schools her. You're coming after a bad cop, you'd better bring cuffs and a gun. More often, she's taught by a commando-like bounty hunter who likes to be called "Ranger" (Daniel Sunjata), a potentially fun character who sets off no sparks in the story or with Stephanie.

The skiptracer movie skips back and forth as Stephanie stumbles into asking questions about Joe's case, befriending hookers, calling in old favors from cops she grew up with, and the like. There's a menacing mixed martial arts star, a best friend she only meets by phone, a few glorified cameos (Reynolds, John Leguizamo, Fisher Stevens), and a lot of blander-than-bland narration.

"Unfortunately for him, I hold a grudge."

Heigl could be commended for giving lesser lights in the acting universe their shot, for entrusting this down-market heroine with female screenwriters and a female director. But when you're given a big break, you need to deliver. These women -- to a one -- fail to do so. Bad screenplay structure, unsnappy "snappy" dialogue, bland characters blandly played, flat, tedious direction.

And there is Heigl, the center of it all, wisely choosing a character, stupidly thinking that an array of skin-tight jeans and a couple of scenes showing a lot of skin make One for the Money worth our money.

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