"Blonde Ambition" isn't, strictly speaking, a direct-to-DVD production -- pic had a grand total of eight theatrical bookings before taking the fast lane to homevid -- but it's difficult to see how even one of the 16 producers involved with this trifle ever could have expected to draw multitudes to megaplexes with something so slight.

“Blonde Ambition” isn’t, strictly speaking, a direct-to-DVD production — pic had a grand total of eight theatrical bookings before taking the fast lane to homevid — but it’s difficult to see how even one of the 16 producers involved with this trifle ever could have expected to draw multitudes to megaplexes with something so slight. The marquee allure of Jessica Simpson may be enough to attract curious buyers and renters, though the thesp’s relatively demure star turn here will disappoint anyone seeking a smokin’ hot reprise of her scantily clad Daisy Duke.

Simpson actually isn’t half bad as Katie Gregerstitch, a small-town Oklahoma cutie who follows her fiance (Drew Fuller) to New York City, only to find the bounder, a would-be male model, between the sheets with another woman.

Fortunately, Katie lucks into a job as secretary for the cantankerous president (slyly underplayed by Larry Miller) of a large construction company. Unfortunately, her luck is more apparent than real: She’s been set up as a pawn by two scheming co-workers eager to take over the firm.

At first, viewers may suspect “Legally Blonde” and “Working Girl” were the chief inspirations for the script credited to John Cohen, David McHugh and Matthew Flanagan. But Simpson conveys such indefatigable ingenuousness, and the comedy itself is so utterly inconsequential, it seems more likely that someone originally conceived this project 40 years ago as something on the order of “Tammy Takes Manhattan” or “Gidget Goes to New York.”

Naturally, the small-town gal manages to overcome big-city adversity — and, while she’s at it, attract a new beau (Luke Wilson, phoning it in) — thanks to her sunny sweetness and homespun decency. Of course, it helps a bit that Katie’s antagonists are basically live-action cartoons: As the villainous co-workers, Penelope Ann Miller and Andy Dick dial the Silly Meter up to 11 early on, and never take it down a notch.

Willie Nelson pops up from time to time as Katie’s supportive grandfather, and his perpetual wide-eyed amazement suggests he can’t figure out what he’s doing in this pic. Rachael Leigh Cook plays Katie’s best friend but, judging from her prominent billing and her fleeting screen time, most of her role was left on the cutting-room floor.

To his credit, director Scott Marshall (nephew of Penny Marshall, who appears in a cameo) sustains a sense of buoyancy that makes “Blonde Ambition” relatively painless. Tech values are adequate for this set-in-Manhattan pic, most of which was shot in Shreveport, La.

Blonde Ambition

Production

A Sony Home Entertainment release of a Millennium Films presentation of a Papa Joe Films production, in association with Two Sticks, Latitude Films. Produced by Joe Simpson, Justin Berfield, Jason Felts, Freddy Braidy, Jeff Rice, Jim Reach, Michael Santos, Lati Grobman, Dave Ornston, Richard Salvatore. Executive producers, John Cohen, Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, John Thompson, Boaz Davidson. Directed by Scott Marshall. Screenplay, John Cohen, David McHugh, Matthew Flanagan.

Crew

Camera (color), Mark Irwin; editor, Tara Timpone; music, David Kitay; production designer, Bob Ziembicki; costume designer, Sara Markowitz; sound (Dolby Digital), Steve C. Aaron; assistant director, Thomy Harper. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Jan. 28, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Jessica Simpson, Luke Wilson, Rachael Leigh Cook, Penelope Ann Miller, Andy Dick, Larry Miller, Drew Fuller, Willie Nelson, Penny Marshall.

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