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MOVIE REVIEW

The Olsens suffer growing pains in 'New York Minute'

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen might be the only thing 'tweenage girls have in common with their brothers and fathers. It's an uncomfortable, you might say unholy, bond, whose spectacular bizarreness is open to interpretation this weekend in "New York Minute," the Olsens' first Hollywood outing and the first movie in some years where parental guidance isn't merely a suggestion, for some men it's cause for celebration. The movie's no good: It's written, directed, performed, photographed, edited, and marketed on a fifth-grade reading level; despite that and its twin stars' saucer eyes and ropy limbs, it's no Muppet movie either. (Never mind that the twins do take Manhattan.)

"New York Minute" is a romp about two Long Island sisters who wind up on a silly Big Apple adventure. Jane (Ashley) is the uptight overachiever. She's bound for Oxford and has entered a speechmaking competition held at Columbia University. Roxy (Mary-Kate) is the bad-girl slacker. To Jane's consternation, she hops on the train, too. Roxy's mission is to crash a music video shoot and give the A&R guys her band's demo. (Not to take this Muppets thing too far, but, like Animal, Roxy is a rambunctious drummer.)

Things just are wildly overwritten from there. Somebody plants a computer chip on one of the girls. A big meanie (Andy Richter) wants the chip. Jane leaves her day planner in the meanie's limo. He holds the planner hostage until the chip is returned. The dog of a senator (Andrea Martin) eats the chip. (Don't ask.) So Jane has to wait for the pooch to relieve itself -- while running from the blond, blue-eyed meanie, who thinks he's Chinese. This says nothing of the senator's son (Jared Padalecki) who's in love with Roxy; the bike messenger (Riley Smith) who keeps bumping into Jane; the truancy officer (Eugene Levy) stalking Roxy; the fact that the chip's rightful owner is a Chinese dragon-lady type (Alannah Ong) who intends to use it for pirating DVDs and compact discs; or that awful trip to the "House of Bling," a Harlem beauty salon. (The movie is replete with insane, conspiratorial ideas about blacks and Asians.)

Yet, it's all delivered in a manner enjoyable to any girl who has ransacked her local Wal-Mart for Mary-Kate and Ashley brand hairbrushes, perfumes, or "optical frames" -- do they even wear glasses? -- or for copies of their TV movies or television shows. But for those not part of the Olsen industrial complex, "New York Minute" often feels creepy and lecherous, like it was made by a family "uncle."

The director, actually, is Dennie Gordon, a woman and prolific television director, and it must be said that she's distressingly good about pleasing more than one audience. The movie is a double fantasy. The Olsens are surrounded by men who appeal to other men: Ozzy Osbourne's ill-behaved son Jack, for instance, is Roxy's manager, and the sex expert Dr. Drew Pinsky has been cast as their father. The film is fully furnished with shots of its young stars giddily running around Times Square in towels and bathrobes. In a cameo, their "Full House" dad, Bob Saget, has the good sense to flash them a disgusted look. Still, Mary-Kate's linens come off after the girls tumble into a Dumpster. (Who said there were no metaphors?)

The Olsens, who are scheduled to turn 18 next month, are also soaked more than once and do a lot of spatting, only to make up in subsequent scenes, which is certainly sweet. By the end of the picture, they're gazing lovingly into each other's eyes and holding each other awkwardly close. The girls around me cooed with delight. The men giggled almost in guilt, like boys caught with a copy of Stuff or Maxim. They were in a curious spot, particularly the ones who sat through this dinky movie unaccompanied by a daughter. They couldn't possibly have shown up for the articles.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com.

New York Minute
Directed by: Dennie Gordon
Written by: Emily Fox, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage
Starring: Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Eugene Levy, Andy Richter, Alannah Ong, Drew Pinsky, Riley Smith, Jared Padalecki, Darrell Hammond
Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs
Running time: 91 minutes
Rated: PG (Mild sensuality and thematic elements)
*

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