Maid in Manhattan

There are not many movies as cookie cutter and bland as Maid in Manhattan. This is a strictly paint-by-the-numbers romantic comedy so lightweight, formulaic, and predictable that there is almost something comforting about watching it. This is also another lazy step for Jennifer Lopez (Enough, Angel Eyes), who is capable of so much more yet often chooses mediocre work that make her more popular but does nothing to hone her skills. This is a Cinderella story for Lopez, who plays Marissa Ventura, a maid at a swanky New York Hotel. So, as the Cinderella story goes, she must meet some handsome guy and fall in love, and all the while he has no clue that she is actually a maid.

The handsome guy is Christopher Marshall (Ralph Feinnes, Red Dragon, The Miracle Maker), aspiring senatorial candidate from a wealthy family. He is staying at the hotel that Marissa works at. He meets Marissa's son Ty (Tyler Posey, Collateral Damage), a politics junkie and then meets Marissa. However, Marissa is playing dress-up in somebody else's room, and Christopher mistakes the maid for the occupant. She is attractive, smart, and funny, so of course he is immediately drawn to her. And when he goes to look for her, he cannot find her at all. Instead, the real occupant, Caroline Sincaire (Natasha Richardson, Waking Up in Reno, Blow Dry) thinks that Christopher is attracted to her, and sets off to try to nab him.

Somebody named "Edmond Dantes" (the main character from The Count of Monte Cristo) has story credit, while Kevin Wade (Meet Joe Black, Junior) wrote the screenplay. "Dantes" is actually a pseudonym for John Hughes (Home Alone 4, Beethoven's 4th), lately mired in bad family comedies. The script doesn't work well because Feinnes and Lopez have little time on screen together. A lot of the time goes to slapstick pieces about Marissa trying to evade Christopher. Although he gives everybody a good description and a photograph of her exists, for some reason, nobody can find her. Okay, Lionel (Bob Hoskins, Last Orders, Don Quixote), one of the butlers, knows. Lionel is actually an interesting character, but leave it to the script and director Wayne Wang (The Center of the World, Anywhere But Here) to ignore them completely. In fact, there are actually some interesting lesser characters, unlike most movies of this ilk. Richardson is the only person with any sense of life, and Stanley Tucci (The Road to Perdition, Big Trouble) also gets in some lines.

Wang is a director who veers wildly in style from movie to movie. This is not a good move for him. So he can make a movie just as bad as everybody else. Whoop-de-do. If there were some spark of originality in Maid in Manhattan, it may be interesting, but everything from the hollow characterizations, familiar plotting, cutesy title and every other aspect of this movie screams copycat. This is like a cleaner version of Pretty Woman with a non-white lead. Lopez does kind of coast along as Marissa, exuding some personality and spunk, but as mentioned before, she is capable of so much more. Feinnes is a little stranger. He excels at darker characterizations that are usually somber or morose. He has the looks of a leading man, but frequently looks uncomfortable as Christopher. It's as if he can't relax enough. Maybe he is beginning to realize how utterly artificial this movie is.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references.

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