by Marty Demarest

Heaven knows where this title came from. New York Minute lasts considerably longer than a minute, I didn't hear any Don Henley and aside from some skyline-spanning camera work in Times Square, there's not much of New York in it either.

What the movie does have in abundance is the Olsen Twins: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Or, as I like to think of them: "Daughter of the Olsens" and "MORE Daughter of the Olsens." They are the identical twins who, in a dazzling display of toddler tag-team acting, portrayed Michelle, the bobble-headed kewpie on the sitcom Full House. They're now grown-up enough to dash around fire escapes wearing only towels and eyeliner. And this amusing, if vacant, film seems destined for an audience that is of legal drinking age (and using it), or not old enough to buy porn.

The Miss Olsens co-star as sisters who hate each other. The film goes to great pains to help us keep the two separate. One wears light-colored clothes; the other prefers darker tones. One is surrounded by sticky notes and to-do lists; the other always seems to have a can of Red Bull. (As product placements go, a company could do worse than putting their wares next to a bouncing Olsen twin in a Metallica t-shirt.) It's easy to tell them apart. I ended up liking the mean one better.

Eugene Levy, he of the unibrow, plays one of their nemeses -- a truant officer with squeaky shoes. Andy Richter, Conan O'Brian's erstwhile sidekick, is their other foe. He's "Number 1 Adopted Son" of a Chinese-American ganglady, and he spends the movie sounding like a Kung-Fu Elmer Fudd. At one point, Richter battles the girls in a nearly empty subway station. The twins attack him with each other, and make off with the multimedia chip they don't know they're carrying. But don't worry about that. Countless bad movies have survived the addition of a plotline.

What occasionally makes New York Minute worth enduring is the laughable glimpse it gives us of the twins' transition to "maturity." Since they're getting older, they can have romantic encounters. In the film, we learn that "If you can't get it out, I'll just take my skirt off," passes for small talk among the My-First-Cellphone set. When a senator's son discovers the girls slow-mo-toweling-off in his hotel room, "Is it my birthday?" is his PG reaction. It's amazing what 17-year-olds can get away with. At one point, one of the girls, lip gloss flashing, mouths "I love you," to Levy. Even with his considerable comedic skills, all he can do is stand gaping, trying not to turn the film into a slapstick Lolita.

This is not to imply that running through NYC in towels, being repeatedly splashed with liquid and crowd surfing in a miniskirt is sexual. It's perfectly innocent, and aside from something called "squishing," no sex, drug-use or profanity occurs. It's all good clean, scrubbed, toned, tanned, leggy, giggly, flirty, trashy, bad fun.

Publication date: 05/13/04

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