Olsens in Bid to Buy Disney

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This story should really be in the business section. New York Minute is superficially a movie and thus subject to critical scrutiny. (So we'll get that part out of the way: it's pretty awful.) But its real function is to expand the financial empire built by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. At 17, the twins have 34 years of show-biz experience between them, from their debut on the sitcom Full House at the age of 9 months. Since then they have starred in and helped supervise dozens of direct-to-video films and fronted the mary-kateandashley brand of fashions, cosmetics and cell phones. Their earnings last year topped $1 billion. When they turn 18 next month, they will take official control of a company worth more than the gross national product of Mongolia. That should keep them busy in the fall, when they acquire — sorry, enter — New York University.

Industry analysts may debate whether the youngest self-made millionaires in U.S. history (at 10) can build their riches as they reach voting age. But this is a Movies page, so we'll do a review of their first grownup, made-for-theaters film.

Serious student Jane (Ashley), with "a 4.2 GPA," wakes up anxious the day she is to deliver a speech that could win her a scholarship to Oxford. Her rebellious sib Roxy (Mary-Kate) is cutting school, again, to attend the making of a rock video. Their paths cross, and they spend a frantic five hours in Manhattan getting into cute scrapes, kooky car chases, a few changes of clothes and the city's sewers.

The movie, a travelogue comedy in the mold of the Olsen video capers Passport to Paris and When in Rome, has the tone of bland chaos: much movement, no energy. The wacky visuals suggest that the film's editor was asked to spank this baby back to life; thus there are segments in split screen, multiscreen and, for a brief John Woo tribute, slow motion as doves flutter around a thug. In addition to cameos by Drew Pinsky (MTV's Dr. Drew) and Bob Saget (the girls' dad on Full House), we get to observe the mortification of some fine comic actors: Eugene Levy as a truant officer who thinks he's Dirty Harry, Andrea Martin as a Senator, Andy Richter as a klutzy villain and Darrell Hammond as the hapless victim of the twins' artless physical comedy.

Having behaved on camera their entire lives, the Olsens know how to counterfeit emotion, though not, yet, how to convey it. Then again, De Niro and Streep would have trouble bringing to life an inert mix of farce and sentiment that ends up being both exploitative and bathetic — kiddie corn.

There we go, thinking that New York Minute needs a critique and not a consumer guide. So let's just say it will satisfy its core and ancillary audiences: the tween girls who don't want the Olsens to grow up and the lonely middle-aged men who can't wait.