One For The Money (2012)

One For The Money

★★☆☆☆

Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson

Written by: Stacy Sherman, Karen Ray and Liz Brixius

Based on the Novel by: Janet Evanovich

Up front, I need to clarify that I have read the book this movie was based on. However, I’m not what you’d call a huge fan of the series; I’ve read the first few and I’ll probably read some more. The books are fun, not fabulous; good, not great. So unlike some other adaptations, I didn’t really go into this with sky-high expectations, fearful that the filmmakers might ruin my beloved stories and characters. It felt like all they needed to do was capture a few key notes from the beach-ready books and they’d be fine.

Well, they didn’t really do that. I mean, the one thing the books aren’t is boring, and I found this movie to be surprising in how uninteresting it was. It sort of meanders along, missing a lot of the flavor that gives the book its heart, and then right at the end it floods the narrative with too much happening at once. Don’t get me wrong, the plot of the first novel is hardly stellar to begin with, but what makes the book work that is lacking from the screenplay is the dynamic secondary characters. But where the book can devote enough time to making each of them shine, the movie feels compressed and rushed so none of the fun supporting cast is ever really given a chance to shine.

But the worst problem with the adaptation is that it gets two characters wrong who need to be right. One is part of the supporting cast, Grandma Mazur, who in the books is specifically non-judgmental of the protagonist. Here, Grandma (played with too much camera-winking by Debbie Reynolds) is sort of an uninteresting hair-tousler which basically ruins her character from the book. Even more egregious is the depiction of heroine Stephanie Plum, herself. I put a lot of the blame on Katherine Heigel, who plays Plum as this kind of smirking, gun-toting, poorly-Jersey-accented tough gal. My umbrage is that isn’t how Plum is presented in the books at all. She’s far less certain of herself, less casually accepting of the mayhem that unfolds around her, and it endears her to the audience. Here, Heigel’s blasé Plum eyerolls her way through the caper and there’s never a point at which you really feel the tension between her and Morelli (played with washboard-stomached inconsistency by Jason O’Mara) that kind of drives Evanovich’s novel.

Like I said, I’m not a superfan of the book series which is why I actually had some hopes that this adaptation could streamline some of the clumsier elements in the early Evanovich novels, but instead director Robinson, who seems to have mostly worked in TV prior to this, amps up the pace to an attention-deficit level that the script can’t keep up with and leaves the actors untethered to create shadows of what they ought to be.

I’m actually a little surprised I didn’t hear more outrage about this film. I know the books are well-loved by a lot of people and as I watched I couldn’t help thinking that I’m just glad they didn’t do this sort of disservice to a book I actually liked a whole lot, such as The Hunger Games. Best to skip this one and read the book instead.