A corporate tool, but a stylish corporate tool, Renée Zellweger is dispatched from sunny Miami to rural Minnesota to close the local factory. She has no personal backstory or identifying characteristics other than her Bettie Page–height boardroom fetish heels. She's Mitt Romney in a mini. Why is she so single and ambitious? We never learn. Yet the town of New Ulm warms to her, and inevitably warms her up, with a standard assortment of sitcom-ready characters: oversharing rube secretary (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), gruff foreman (J.K. Simmons), and hunky eligible local bachelor (Harry Connick, Jr.). The effect is like Fargo without the wood-chipper. Economic pain and the downsizing debate soon cede the screen to Zellweger's snowy pratfalls, lutefisk-out-of-water gags, and makeover montages (widowed Connick's got a tween daughter, doncha know). With a cheap, for-hire Danish director and a co-writer whose major credit is Sweet Home Alabama, the movie wrong-foots Zellweger from the start. She's not enough the ice queen, like Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl, for us to accept her transition into adorable Melanie Griffith. "I will not get personally attached to this town or anyone in it," says Zellweger. Ultimately, we feel the same way about her.
Lutefisk out of water: Zellweger (left) with Hogan.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Jan. 30. Rated PG. 96 minutes.