Don’t call them the Olsen Twins or even Mary-Kate & Ashley anymore. They now wish to be referred to as Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen! And who can blame them. They’ve shared space in just about every single frame of film ever shot of them—a practice that started during their first year of life. If at age 17 they need a little marquee distance between them, so be it. That’s not what’s disconcerting about New York Minute. That has a lot more to do with moral positioning than brand identity.
Onscreen, Ashley is Jane Ryan, a fastidious overachiever devoted to her education, her future, her day-planner and her frilly pink outfits. She plays Legally Blonde to her twin sister Roxy’s Almost Famous. Roxy’s idea of getting ready in the morning is sniffing the Metallica T-shirt she just slept in to make sure it’s not too pungent for another day’s use. Instead of securing a 4.2 GPA like her sister, she’s secured the rank of “most truant” schoolgirl.
On this particular day, Jane is all set to make the trek into New York City to give the biggest speech of her life; a speech she hopes will win her a scholarship to Oxford University. Roxy, meanwhile, decides to skip school yet again when she finds out that the punk band Simple Plan is shooting a video on the corner of 59th and 9th. So, worlds apart, the two girls board the same commuter train bound for Manhattan.
What happens next can’t really be explained, it just has to be recited. The twins get thrown off the train because Roxy doesn’t have a ticket. That leads to an incident in which an operative for a Chinese crime syndicate covertly slips a microchip full of pirated music into Roxy’s handbag. Then a hit man offers them a ride in his limo so he can try to separate Roxy from that microchip. He fails to do so at first, prompting a silly ring-around-the-rosie style chase up and down Big Apple avenues. Meanwhile, truancy officer Max Lomax smells blood in the water and hastens to the scene eager to hand out the biggest detention notice of his life.
The emotional distance between the twins narrows by film’s end. A heart-to-heart has them apologizing for not spending more time together, and not respecting one another’s feelings, desires and ambitions. They discuss how life has changed since their mother died, and how she would be so much more pleased with them if they got along and acted like loving sisters again.
The Olsens pump up their sexuality in New York Minute in a way they never have before. After sneaking into a hotel room to clean themselves up, they only have time to wrap themselves in towels before the teenage son of the (Senator) occupant walks in on them. Seeing the nearly naked teens (the motions slows down as they, in turn, flip their hair sensually), he breaks into a big grin and quips, “Is today my birthday?” Writing for MTV News, Corey Moss commented, “It’s not exactly child porn, but the terry cloth wasn’t worn for comfort either.” Explaining the intent of the scene, co-star Jared Padalecki said, “[Mary-Kate and Ashley] aren’t dumb girls. They know that guys dream about twins and about coming into their room and finding twins in bathrobes on their bed. They were having a fun time.”
Elsewhere, besides lots of footage of Jane and Roxy running around New York wearing towels and bathrobes, super-short skirts and ripped T-shirts, Jane’s legs and shoulders get camera time while she showers. In a dream, she sees herself giving a speech naked. (The camera glimpses her leg and back.) Several times Jane runs into a bike messenger with whom she shares a burgeoning crush. When her clothes get caught in his gears she says, “If you can’t get it out, I’ll take my skirt off.” (He ends up tearing the bottom part of her skirt off, leaving her wearing the much shorter remnant.) Later, when he falls on top of her, he asks if he’s “squashing” her. She responds, “Yes, and it’s great.” And before the credits roll, Jane tells the boy, “It was great bumping into you today.” Gazing at her longingly, he replies, “Maybe we can bump again.”
Everything’s silly and over-the-top in New York Minute, especially the violence. When Roxy gets kicked off the commuter train for not having a ticket, she’s thrown bodily onto the platform. When Bennie Bang, the hit man, starts to get physical with Jane, Roxy goes into full tae kwon do mode and roundhouses her foot into his face. The bike messenger crashes into Jane. Jane and Roxy fall into an open manhole. Following the twins’ example Lomax stage-dives at the Simple Plan video shoot; he hits the pavement when the crowd refuses to catch him. Jane is abducted. Bennie gets his head smashed in a door. Lomax bangs two thugs’ heads together.
A car chase involving a taxi and a Winnebago results in not much more than smashed garbage cans, screeching tires and a few dented vehicles. A dog is tossed from person to person in a hotel room. One toss sends the pet sailing through an open window. Roxy slaps Jane to snap her out of her emotional funk.
Mild profanity is limited to “h—” and “d–n.” God’s name is interjected a half-dozen times or so.
Jane smells like alcohol after a homeless man spills what looks like a grape Slurpee on her. (Her sister jokes about having tried to get her to stop drinking so much.)
Jane and Roxy sneak into the hotel room by blocking the door from closing. Then they use the shower and steal the towels—not to mention the guest’s dog. The dog is important to them because it swallowed the microchip, and Jane carries it around for most of the rest of the movie waiting for nature to push it out the other end. When Bennie demands that the dog give the chip to him, the animal responds by directing a stream of urine at him.
Simple Plan gets a huge—underserved—plug. (When Plugged In reviewed the band’s No Pads, No Helmets … Just Balls album, we couldn’t even print its cover without pixelating parts of it.)
Families that make movie decisions based solely on foul language content or MPAA ratings are going to reflexively OK New York Minute. They’ll end up disappointed, though. It feels curmudgeonly to come down so hard on a PG movie that stars America’s sweetest siblings, but there’s more than enough proof to justify my misgivings. This is a film that keeps things relatively clean in all the obvious categories, but runs amok everywhere else. Jane and Roxy don’t swear up a storm; they don’t have sex; they don’t do drugs; they don’t kill anybody. But they do go to great lengths to point their adoring tween fan base in quite a few wrong directions—and the list doesn’t end with them flaunting their bodies and the titillating idea of three-way necking.
Roxy’s never punished or even mildly scolded for habitually skipping school. In fact, her truancy is treated as a ticket to freedom, fun and fame. Lomax is pictured as a crazed cop-wannabe with an irrational desire to nail detention slips to innocent kids’ foreheads. (That makes it “funny” when Jane and Roxy mistreat and disrespect him.) To make matters worse, when the girls bribe him by giving him the credit for capturing the Chinese piracy ring, he immediately lets them off the hook. Jane, despite not following through with her speech—and repeatedly humiliating and abusing the scholarship’s namesake—is still rewarded with a free ride to Oxford.
Add to all that the fact that New York Minute is corny beyond all reasonable expectations. (Think of your least favorite Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment and stretch it out for 90 minutes.) Anybody for a Full House marathon?