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New York Minute

New York Minute, starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, cost an estimated $30 million and grossed $14 million theatrically during the early summer of 2004. It also took the dubious distinction of having the lowest opening-weekend gross of any film debuting in more than 3,000 locations, taking in less than $6 million. And if it seems a bit crass to lead off a movie review with the studio spreadsheet, one should bear in mind that this is the Olsen Twins we are talking about. This isn't about talent, or art, or who's in a rehab center and why. This is about money. And this isn't the girls' first time at the rodeo. The most profitable sister act in history had an estimated net worth of $300 million in 2003, with a five-year projection that could fill a party-pad swimming pool with as much as $1 billion before they finish college. And that's a pretty purse that has little do with their eight-year stint on ABC-TV's "Full House" and their one feature film before this title, It Takes Two (1995) starring Kirstie Alley and Steve Guttenberg. Thanks to their production company DualStar, the doppelganger darlings have become little more than a marketing proposition, offering their personas to the loose-cash tween-girl demographic, promising to be just like all other giggly teenagers in the world, only more so. Their straight-to-video filmography reads like the page under "Jones" in the phone book, dominated by the "Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley" detective series (e.g. "The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the U.S. Space Camp Mission), and the "You're Invited" imprint (e.g. "You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Mall of America Party"). They've also branched out into STV feature films based on European vacations, such as Passport to Paris, Winning London, and When in Rome. And if you're tempted to roll your eyes at such viewing propositions, the folks at DualStar certainly won't. Remember, that's $300 million in American money, supplemented by magazines, a clothing line at Wal-Mart, and young-adult novelizations of the girls' alter-ego adventures. Indeed, the DVD for New York Minute features a video promo offering both the novelization of the film itself and two more spin-off paperbacks, "The Secret of Jane's Success" and "There's Something About Roxy." When the twins first started shopping around for movie scripts a couple of years ago, everybody must have figured this project would buy them 50 more Range Rovers. (By the way, the cerebral Ashley's Rover is black, while fun-loving Mary-Kate's is green. But you probably already knew that.)

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And now for our feature presentation: New York Minute tells the story of two sisters who look alike but couldn't be more different. Jane Ryan (Ashley Olsen) is a bookish academic with a keen Republican bent (her bedroom features a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a George Bush bobblehead), and she's determined to win a prestigious scholarship to Oxford University. All she has to do is catch the train from the family home in Long Island to Manhattan, where's she's scheduled in a public-speaking competition at Columbia University. Meanwhile, Roxy Ryan (Mary-Kate Olsen) is a class-ditching punk-rock drummer who's just cut some new CDs with the help of her manager (Jack Osbourne). Punk-pop band A Simple Plan is scheduled to make a video-shoot in Manhattan, and Roxy's determined to get her CDs in the hands of their record-company execs. Thus, the two sisters wind up on the same train, although they barely can say two words to each other before they start bickering. Making matters more complicated is a truant officer (Eugene Levy) who's determined to bring in the terminally absent Roxy, a gang of piracy racketeers led by a white man with a Chinese accent (Andy Richter), a bike messenger who falls for Jane (Riley Smith), a senator's son who falls for Roxy (Jared Padalecki), the senator herself (Andrea Martin), and a businessman who crosses the twins' path several times and always regrets it (Darrell Hammon). Give credit to Mary-Kate and Ashley — while it would be easy for them to have made New York Minute a vanity project ("You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's New York Fashion Party Adventure!"), they are good sports enough to subject themselves to all sorts of mishaps for the sake of comedy — Ashley's dress gets ripped, a drunk flings a booze-slurpee down her front, a passing car sprays the girls with water, they wind up in a garbage dumpster, they wind up in a sewer, etc. And for those who have never seen them on screen before, one can't fault their very natural style. After all, they've been making a living in front of cameras since before they could count their age on two hands. But even if it's all for the sake of good-natured comedy, New York Minute simply doesn't have the broad sort of appeal that would make it a hit with mainstream audiences. A script that featured jokes that would appeal to anyone over the age of 12 would have been beneficial, as would perhaps a hint of risqué humor and some self-deprecation, given the girls' well-known personas. As it stands, the DVD release will put New York Minute in the black, and the Olsens likely will do another modestly budgeted feature after this one. But they'll have to come up with something more than what's here if they expect to reach a wider audience — it's pretty clear at this point that you don't want to bank your opening weekend on pre-teen girls who are used to watching MK & A at home. Warner's DVD release of New York Minute features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include a "making-of" featurette (15 min.), two alternate endings, a blooper reel (5 min.), on-set stills, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.

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