Stephanie Plum is the Bond girl next door.
That's what fans love about the original Jersey girl in "One For the Money," the adaptation of the popular popcorn novel series by Janet Evanovich.
After years of development, star attachments and Internet speculation, fans of the series are anxious to see how Katherine Heigl fares as the vehicularly-challenged, junk-food-loving heroine, Plum. For starters, it's a tall task to fill the shoes of a character who's starred in 18 novels, but Heigl gives it her best shot.
While Heigl has the physical characteristics and the wit of fans' beloved bond enforcement agent, the Jersey accent is debatable. Thanks to reality TV, we're all experts on the distinctive dialect by now, but it's not overly distracting.
She's no Snooki, but Plum is a force to be reckoned with. She takes a job from her sleazy cousin as a bounty hunter, after a bad divorce and losing her job at the Macy's lingerie department.
Her middle class family -- which should have been in many more scenes -- has a charm that epitomizes the Trenton setting. Her mother (Debra Monk) always has a pot roast on the table, and her dad wishes they would send her loud-mouthed grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) to a rest home.
Plum needs the cash, so she aims high for her first assignment -- tracking down a local cop on the lam, Joe Morelli, played by Jason O'Mara, perhaps best known for the short-lived TV series "Life on Mars." They have a sexy history -- and fortunately for this movie, a sizzling chemistry -- but Stephanie is holding a grudge so cashing in on 10 percent of his bond would be a bonus.
But she soon learns that she knows little about tracking down these skippers. First, she needs a gun, and that's quickly provided by another handsome character in the series, the bond agent Ranger (Daniel Sunjata). For Plum, this serves as another good incentive to keep at her newly chosen profession.
The plot unfolds at a sluggish pace, but it's easy to follow along. While Plum chases the cop Morelli, she learns that he may or may not be guilty of a murder. She meets a slew of unsavory characters along the way -- no less sleazy, she aptly points out, than the clientele in the lingerie department.
The sassy hooker Lula, who eventually becomes Plum's hilarious sidekick in the series, is played by "The View" host Sherri Shepherd -- and she's arguably the best casting of the film. It's just a shame that her character gets so little screen time -- Lula would certainly have a thing or two to say about that.
But overall, "One For the Money" is probably just what an audience is in the mood for now. Nothing fussy, snobby or fancy -- just like the characters, who work hard at local businesses and would never miss Sunday dinner with their families for fear of dire repercussions.
Director Julie Anne Robinson, whose credits include a lot of TV work, is responsible for its lackluster pace -- which feels much slower than Evanovich's page-turning novels -- and truthfully, the whole thing feels a bit like a TV pilot.
But is that such a bad thing? It's probably going to boil down to whether you're a fan of Evanovich's fluffy series. If you love these books, you'll be more forgiving than a critic expecting a Steven Soderbergh experience.
I'm sure the producers are hoping "One For the Money" makes a big recovery at the box office, spawning a successful franchise. That would be a good thing for Heigl, whose recent movie choices have been, at best, questionable.
I'm a fan of the series, so it would be fun to see a punched-up round two. 'ONE FOR THE MONEY' Stars: Katherine Heigl, Jason O'Mara, Sherri Shepherd, Debbie Reynolds
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (violence, sexual references and language, some drug material and partial nudity)