But ‘New in Town’ raises serious alarms. A shockingly banal script lends the movie a generic awfulness; you wish Zellweger were in better hands. Foolish mistakes overwhelm in the first 20 minutes alone: would high-powered Miami executive Lucy Hill (Zellweger) seriously arrive in wintry Minnesota wearing heels and no sweater? She’s come to the small town of New Ulm – already introduced in a cringeworthy scene of ‘Fargo’-like accent abuse – to make deep personnel cuts at a corporate-owned factory. But the beer-swilling local union rep, Ted (Harry Connick Jr), might have something to say about that. Also, he’s a widower.
These are the conventions of romantic comedy. But must they be doled out so strenuously and with zero irony? Lucy comes to smile at the town’s religiosity; she performs a heroic makeover on Ted’s teenage daughter and proves herself scrappy when her board insists on rough tactics. But as a fantasy of economic salvation, this feels especially phony. Jokes about layoffs just aren’t going to wring many laughs these days.