New York Minute

In “New York Minute,” a film that went by the working title of “Jailbait: The Movie,” Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen play twin sisters who become involved in a series of simple-minded Big Apple hijinks that leave them clad only in bath towels for a few minutes as they run through the streets, and later in skimpy cheerleader skirts as they run through the streets some more. The girls will turn 18 on June 13; for the time being, they remain underage, and the manner in which they are held out as teasing sexual objects is at once frustrating, repellant and hot. If I didn’t hate this movie anyway, I would hate it just because of that.

Fortunately, there is so much more to hate about “New York Minute,” and the hate flows powerful and strong from me as I reflect upon it. There is not a minute of it that makes sense or that resembles anything that would ever happen in the real world. Cause and effect are meaningless. There is no real humor. It is a dour trainwreck of a faux-screwball movie.

Jane (Ashley) and Roxy (Mary-Kate) are Long Island high school seniors who, despite being twins, can’t stand each other. Jane is prim, organized and anal retentive; Roxy skips school regularly, wears dirty clothes, and I don’t know, probably has sex with illegal aliens in Grand Central Station washrooms.

The day in question is a big one for both girls. Jane is giving a speech at Columbia University as part of a scholarship competition — if she wins, she goes to London, far, far away from her sister — while Roxy is hoping to be an extra in a music video for A Simple Plan. (That’s one of those new “punk” bands the kids like so much.)

Roxy is being pursued by an overeager truant officer played by Eugene Levy, who proves here that even he is fallible, unable to create humor despite his gallons of talent. And soon Jane is being pursued, too, by a guy named Bennie (Andy Richter), who for some reason speaks with a Chinese accent even though he’s caucasian, who needs a microchip that a bad guy dropped into Jane’s purse when she wasn’t looking, and which has now been eaten by a small dog. Bennie is holding Jane’s day planner hostage until the dog passes the chip, and Jane can’t give her speech without her day planner.

Oh, and there are two cute guys whom Jane and Roxy keep running into, usually literally. At one point, Jane’s guy, played by Riley Smith, lands on top of her when she is wearing naught but a towel. Olsen is 17; Smith is 26. I bet the set was crawling with child-labor officials and Olsen parents that day.

So it’s all a big theft of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and a joyless, wretched one at that. It is directed with absolutely no effort by Dennie Gordon (“What a Girl Wants,” “Joe Dirt”), and written by nobodies Emily Fox, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage. None of it makes sense, but I have a few choice moments that I especially want to share:

– When a driver asks Jane, “Are you and her going to the same place?,” she corrects him, saying, “‘You and SHE.’ You’re using the wrong possessive.” Well, yeah, except that there were no “possessives,” wrong or otherwise, in that sentence. What he was using was the wrong PRONOUN. The screenwriters wanted to establish Jane as the sort of person who would correct a stranger’s grammar, yet they themselves were so stupid that they couldn’t come up with a good example of it. Never try to write characters who are smarter than you are, guys. It never works.

– A passing bum spills his drink all over the front of Jane’s blouse, and after examination Roxy declares, “That’s not just a cherry Slurpee. I smell alcohol.” But you know what, Roxy? It probably wasn’t a cherry Slurpee anyway, considering the stain is blue and cherry Slurpees are red.

– With just under two hours before Jane’s big speech, the girls stumble into a Harlem beauty salon, where they are treated to a series of hair and costume makeovers. My hair-stylist sources tell me even ONE of those new hairdos would take over an hour, yet Jane and Roxy each get four or five in the space of one montage.

– A dog pees in Andy Richter’s face. I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense for a dog to pee in someone’s face, but what are you doing holding a dog up to your face like that anyway? You kinda deserve it, really.

F (1 hr., 31 min.; PG, some crude humor.)