Something must be admitted before you read this review: I, Kim Morgan, am a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen fan. But make no mistake, loving "The OT" (as I fondly refer to them) is not based on the comely young girls' "hotness" (as so many pervy "countdown till they turn 18" websites drooled over--they are 18 now, just to set the record straight). It has nothing to do with Full House—a show I loathed and watched intermittently, most likely when I was sick at home with no cable. And as for their 47 straight-to-cable kiddie movies, I've only seen a few (the DVD bargain bin at Wallgreens is just too tempting at two in the morning).
No, I am a fan because of what these tiny titans have achieved. Dualstar Entertainment (which sounds intriguingly like the Death Star), created when the girls were a mere seven years old is a $1 billion dollar empire. Mary-Kate and Ashley (now worth about $150 million each) have been been granted keys to the kingdom (again, they are 18--sorry Lolita-ites), becoming co-presidents of Dualstar, making even more business decisions (with creepy Dualstar CEO Robert Thorne). From working on new products for their Wallmart line (boy's clothes are next. Hmmm...) to turning down what the teens find lame—like when they were pitching marykateandashley fruit roll ups, wrapping paper, or Spaghetti-Os-one can only wonder what'll be next with their ever-growing power. The Marykateandashley Olsen Tower? Comb-over media whore Donald Trump should watch his back. Or rather, watch the fuzzy roadkill that sits atop his head.
The girls, who at seven were the youngest producers in history, are, in fact, much less needy than that guy we're supposed to find fascinating—Trump. And yet, in early reviews and general player-hatin' fashion, they are continually accused of narcissism, attacked for their obvious fame/business maneuvers, and viewed as vacuous puppets—talentless cuties with too much product. But give these girls a break. You don't see the Olsens on reality shows or TV commercials, overstaying their welcome with catch phrases like, "you're fired." And in spite of their profitable popularity, you don't see them much anywhere. Well, you USED to not see them everywhere. Now that Mary-Kate has gone into "treatment" (is it anorexia or cocaine? who cares--it only makes her more interesting), they've been forced into damage control. But even The OT only give Oprah one third of a show and difuse any questions about eating disorders. Even with media saturation, they remain an elusive pair who in interviews are certainly well poised, girlish but probably not stupid. And thank god they don't wax on like those other products, I mean "artists" (Britney, Beyonce, and Jessica), giving us inane details about their sex lives (they refuse to answer virgin questions), drinking (they refuse to answer drinking questions), and boyfriends (they don't talk about them). You won't catch The OT gushing a la Britney about "their heart and their soul." And so far they don't get engaged to tacky back up dancers. Like that other ridiculously maligned mega-star, Martha Stewart, they know they're product and with this, remained mysterious, different, and—dare I say it—cool. Much cooler than say, Hilary Duff aping The Go-Go's (yuck) or any stupid teenager wandering your town with tats and piercings revealing how "extreme" and "crazy" they are. Nothing is more exotic these days, than a young celebrity, nay, young person, who's NOT talking about how "wild" they are. Yawn...bring me a story about Martha Stewart hacking a chicken's head off or Mary-Kate going into rehab--privately (until some bitch snitched on her to the tabloids) over Jessica Simpson's urinary tract infection.
So with this admiration/fascination, I went into their newest and biggest film, New York Minute with a mixture of open mindedness and mild worry. What if it sucks? What if THEY suck? As well as being producers and rulers of an empire, they are, after all, actresses. They have to act, or in this movie's case, act a little like themselves. And most importantly charm us.
Happily, New York Minute is rather charming--a breezy trifle that's reminiscent of screwball, '70s Disney fare and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Of course it's a major coupe for The OT Empire. The film was made solely for them. But then, who cares? As long as it sets out to achieve what it desires to achieve—entertainment—it works. And since when are movies not built around certain stars? Call them what you will, but The Olsen's are, at least, not hypocrites.
Here they play 17-year-old twins who, as on The Patty Duke Show, couldn't be more opposite. Ashley is Jane, a 4.2-GPA high-school student whose anal retentive borderline OCD personality irritates her rebellious rocker sister, Roxy (Mary-Kate). Living in their nice Long Island Home with their doctor father (played by Dr. Drew Pinsky), their day begins as pink suited Jane readies herself for an important speech to be given that day at Columbia University (she's in competition to win a scholarship to Oxford) while Metallica-T-wearing Roxy skillfully skips school to attend a video shoot in Manhattan. A rock drummer, she's intent on slipping her CD to the band's A & R men.
Both are off to New York but things go horribly awry when both girls are thrown off the commuter train, a microchip is sneaked into Roxy's bag and the girls agree to take a ride from a creepy limo driver with an affected Chinese accent (Andy Richter). They soon learn the guy is up to no good when he won't let them out of the limo. Then the girls are on the run from the weird adopted-Chinese assassin and Max Lomax (Eugene Levy), a whacked-out truancy officer who's as obsessed with Roxy's school absences as Jeffrey Jones was with Ferris Bueller's.
What happens? Everything snowballs. A dog eats the microchip, Jane learns she's left her day planner and speech in the limo, Roxy continually must outsmart Lomax, they run through New York in a towel and bathrobe, they meet cute boys, they appear on TV in a video shoot during which they stage dive and, yes, they get makeovers. Like 10 makeovers in one scene at something called The House of Bling. Some critics found this scene racist--"Oh! Black people are making over these tiny white girls!"--their problems seemingly stemming from the mere fact that Mary Kate and Ashley ARE just so incredibly white. There is no hiding it in this scene, which is refreshing--should they talk like all those other obnoxious teens and young celebs in wigger-speak (you know, like Justin Timberlake who really relates to his black soul brothers--especially when, as Janeane Garofalo once quipped, he "grew up on the tough streets of the Mickey Mouse Club")? Thank you girls for understanding you have nothing in common with Eldrige Cleaver--wait none of those young stars even know who he is...ok, Denzel Washington PLAYING Malcolm X.
But I digress...Directed by Dennie Gordon, the film moves along with amiable ease, rarely stopping to give us a heavy handed "you must learn" moment. In the tradition of screwball, the girls come to understand that this day has brought them together—they actually complement one another. So even as they're given love interests (unappealing ones, unfortunately) and first kisses, little time is spent on guys (the dog proves more important)—it's the sisters who need each other.
Now you're saying, "Awww...barf!" But truly, you won't find yourself retching on feel-goodness. I would rather watch these girls charm their way into Oxford and play a David Bowie cover than Britney dealing with her pregnant friend's miscarriage in Crossroads (there's a barf--though an oddly entertaining one). And with Levy, Richter, Andrea Martin, and Darrell Hammond on board, there's enough of an offbeat tone to keep the movie out of sweetie-pie land. But then, it's not just the character actors who aid in the upgrading; credit must be given to The OT because, well, these girls really aren't sweetie pies. They're business moguls. And I'm not going to venture into the kiddie porn uncomfort factor other critics have thrown out. These are the same people who drool over Lindsay Lohan because she's "actually a good actress." She is, but right...they didn't save that Vanity Fair photo where the younger Lohan is falling out of her bikini top.
People just want to hate The Olsen Twins. Even men--perhaps frightened by the "youngness" of the twins. And like Lolita, there is something vaguely evil about them. They know what they're doing. Personally, I find their demonic qualities all the more intriguing--all the more bewitching. As hard as they work or promote, these girls both made a pact with someone AND have real style (Mary-Kate in those huge Jackie-O cocaine glasses--you have to love her)--if they're going to come off as beautiful, clever, and smart in New York Minute, well, they're just going to. To mis-quote Heathers, Why do they have to be Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen? Because they can be.
Read More Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun