If this vehicle for Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, darlings of the 12-year old girls’ set, actually lived up to its title and lasted a mere New York minute, it might be tolerable. Unfortunately, it drags on for ninety-three ordinary ones, and it’s not.
It’s a frantic chase flick, like a live-action Road Runner cartoon, with a script pretty much cribbed from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (If John Hughes were in a litigious mood, he could add this to his attorney’s list right after “Johnson Family Vacation,” which was stolen from his sceenplay for “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”) But it’s naturally been retooled to suit twin girls rather that a boy, his girl and his best buddy. The Olsens play the suburban high school kids of widowed gynecologist Dr. Ryan (Drew Pinsky). They’re totally dissimilar, of course. Jane (Ashley) is the up-tight bookworm, her life carefully organized, who’s about to go to New York City to deliver a speech that could win her a prestigious scholarship to Oxford University. Roxy (Mary-Kate) is a messy slacker more interested in her band than school, who’s ditched class many times (like Ferris) and is also sneaking off to the Big Apple to hawk her promo disc to the bigwigs attending a video shoot by Simple Plan. They reluctantly wind up together on the train to the city, and before long they’re being pursued by two comic villains. Max Lomax (Eugene Levy), the local truant cop, is on Roxy’s trail and will stop at nothing to catch her at long last; meanwhile Bennie Bang (Andy Richter), a dumb crook, is pursuing Jane, in whose bag a micro-chip (suspiciously large, it should be noted–it must be very old equipment indeed) containing pirated music and movies has been tossed in order to keep it from falling into the hands of the fuzz. Most of the picture is devoted to lame sequences in which the reluctantly-joined duo elude one or another of them. But there are other characters whom they also bump into with disturbing regularity, considering that they’re scampering around a city of many millions. Two are the guys whom they’re obviously predestined to link up with: dark-haired, fashionably scruffy Trey Lipton (Jake Padalecki), who happens to be the son of a U.S. senator (Andrea Martin), for Roxy, and smiling blond Jim (Riley Smith), a straight-arrow bike messenger, for Jane. And a harried businessman (Darrell Hammond), whom the pair harass over and over again, and who turns out to play an absurd deus ex machina role at the close. There’s also a little dog, belonging to Senator Lipton, that swallows the micro-chip, thus allowing for some of the coarse potty humor that seems obligatory in movies aimed at youngsters nowadays.
Nothing much goes right in “New York Minute.” The script piles coincidences and limp twists on one another with riotous abandon, and to make matters worse the girls’ actions are, throughout, so thoroughly irresponsible that they should make any parent’s hair stand on end. (There’s also something unseemly about its putting the twins repeatedly in skimpy garb–the motif is positively prurient.) Dennie Gordon directs it all at a frenetic pace that can’t conceal the weakness of the material with simple speed. The production elements are at best adequate (with yet another of George S. Clinton’s impossibly bubbly scores). And, of course, the cast suffers terribly. The Olsens play everything with that sitcom-style intensity that quickly grows annoying, and since they’re onscreen almost constantly, the irritation level is high. Levy, who’s shown what he’s capable of in his work with Christopher Guest, sinks back to the same miserable level of “Armed and Dangerous,” the terrible security-guard farce he made with SCTV’s John Candy in 1986. (He’s taking the role Jeffrey Jones played in “Ferris Bueller,” of course–presumably because after his recent legal troubles, it would have been impossible for Jones to play a fellow who spent his time chasing after under-age kids.) Smith and Padalecki are sufficiently bland for this teen-aimed stuff, but Hammond and Martin overdo things atrociously in their ill-written parts. Still, both look positively brilliant beside Richter, who’s compelled not only to act the complete buffoon but also to affect an awful faux Chinese accent in a borderline racist gag (he’s a white guy who claims to be the “adopted first son,” Charlie-Chan style, of a Chinese grande dame). Can you say “Solly,” Andy? (His character does, however, have one line that’s perfect: in talking supposedly to the aforementioned dog to try to get it to relieve itself of the chip, Bennie–as he’s called–stares directly into the audience and says, in his strangulated falsetto: “I’m torturing you–it’s intolerable.” That’s truer than he knows.)
Perhaps all this won’t matter to the myriad fans of the Olsens, whose support ever since “Full House” has made the girls enormously wealthy despite their minuscule talent. Others will be far less tolerant. There’s a scene about a third into the flick that will sum up the movie for many in the audience. The girls are hurled down the side of a New York City hotel in a window-washing lift, and at the bottom they topple off into a strategically-placed (and happily overflowing) dumpster. A lot of viewers will consider that especially appropriate, since “New York Minute” pretty clearly belongs in the trash.