New York Minute

dir. Gordon

Opens Fri May 7

Various Theaters

As frat-boy websites internet-wide will tell you, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen--middle America's fave twin franchise, worth $150 million each--are one month shy of their eighteenth birthday. Their latest film, New York Minute, is another pitstop in the stacks of Olsen home videos, full of cutie-pie tween antics (and which push the boundaries of how many ways two girls can make the "surprised!" face). But, with the actual twins just short of legal and attending NYU in the fall, NYM is purportedly a weird attempt to garner them an audience closer to their age.

As such, the film's plot--which has significantly less substance than most modern video games--follows the paper-thin formula: to get from point A (beginning) to point B (end), the twins land in heaps of trouble trying to perform menial tasks (find datebook, attend video shoot, make dog poop, avoid truant officer). Only now, there are love interests--and, perhaps with their online fans in mind, a creepy extended scene wherein the twins run around NYC wearing only bath towels.

The Olsen twins are agents of socialization in a conservative America; New York Minute is loaded with superficial morals ranging from familial friendship and personal responsibility, to a half-baked swipe at the evils of pirated music. What's worse, though, is that NYM's screenplay has some, hmm... racially unsound moments written by screenwriters apparently thinking with less depth than the Olsen's pedicurist. There is the stereotypical Asian bootlegger, who copies DVDs and sells them ("to teens!," of course) on the street. There is the stereotypical black salon, with the stereotypical gay black barber, where the twins get "blinged" and costume themselves all manner of ghetto-fabulous ensembles. The film's primary antagonist, played by Eugene Levy, follows them into the ghetto--East 125th, which puts them, oh, about right in the middle of Harlem--and flashes a cop's badge: all the black men in the street involuntarily put up their hands, as though they have been caught doing something.

These sorts of gnarly scenes were bad enough in the culturally unenlightened '80s (Gung Ho, anyone?), but in 2004--in a film whose primary consumptive audience is young girls and pre-teens--that shit is straight-up appalling.