NEW ULM, Minn. - If Hollywood vs. Minnesota were a football game, the movie people would be penalized for piling on. In recent years, film after film -- "Fargo," "Drop Dead Gorgeous," the "Grumpy Old Men" series and now "New in Town" -- has lampooned our attire, hobbies and particularly our vernacular, dontcha know?
Unlike its predecessors, the new Renée Zellweger comedy wasn't even filmed in Minnesota, heaping financial insult upon satiric injury. Winnipeg stood in for "New in Town's" actual setting of New Ulm.
But good luck finding anyone in this southern Minnesota burg who's ready to take umbrage at the latest spoofing. The attitude Wednesday along Minnesota Street downtown: There's no such thing as bad publicity, so bring on the earflaps, "Yah, fershurs," scrapbooking and embroidered sweaters.
Well, maybe not the embroidered sweaters. "We're not Hooterville," said Jan Veigel when asked about those garments, quickly adding, "We're very excited. Anything that mentions New Ulm is wonderful."
Veigel also understands how Hollywood works. Her husband, Don, worked in Tinseltown in the 1940s, and their classic German restaurant, Veigel's Kaiserhoff, has a wall filled with personally autographed photos of Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck and even Lucille Ball in her come-hither era.
"People know that in movies they exaggerate," she said. "But I was disappointed they didn't film here, and really disappointed that they didn't have a premiere here. And [Zellweger] hasn't been out talking about [the movie], which they usually do. I've been listening to Regis and the others and haven't heard a thing."
Still, Viegel said she would be among those attending Friday night's local premiere, preceded by a potluck dinner. "New Ulm's charm captured in Hollywood movie," reads the banner heralding the event, adding "First 50 to arrive w/potluck hotdish get free VIP movie pass."
It's safe to say, then, that in this town of 13,158, where speakers downtown blare oom-pah music all day and the daily specials at the Ulmer Café include Tater Tot hot dish (Monday), sauerkraut with pork (Friday) and sauerkraut with meatballs (Saturday), the locals are embracing the regional clichés.
"We do wear earflaps, and we do talk with an accent, and there's lots of ladies who do wear sweaters with embroidery," said Lynn Heuchert, owner of the Interior Motives store. "We don't think we have an accent, but when we go somewhere else, people say, 'Oh, you're from Minnesota.' "
Heuchert was one of about 30 New Ulm residents who attended an advance screening of the film Tuesday at the Mall of America. Her review: "It was very lighthearted, very cute. It had some really fun characters. I don't think it's insulting.
"They would say things, and I would go, 'I know someone who says things like that.' You could tell they had come here and listened to people, like the way we say 'boat' and 'coat.' "
That's because director Jonas Elmer and actress Nancy Drake each spent the better part of a week in New Ulm, listening to locals and basically hanging out in the name of research.
"[Drake] asked a lot of people to talk, and had a tape recorder and was writing down words and expressions. She sat at the bar at the B&L and talked to the guys," said Heuchert. "[Elmer] rode his bike all around and spent some time down at the Schell's brewery."
That probably has helped New Ulmites approach the film without being grumpy about the getting-old humor.
"I'd like to think," said Bernice Ludewig, a sales clerk at Edelweiss Inc. floral shop, "that they're laughing with us and not at us."
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643