NOTE: This spoiler sent in by The Major who says... "I was pleasantly surprised by the flow of the movie; there are several theater wide laugh-out-loud moments.
The movie opens in Snowy, bitterly cold New Ulm, MN as the ladies scrapbooking club meets at Blanche's house. One lady (Trudy) is late, rings the doorbell and our hostess Blanche (Siobhan Fallon) yells for her husband to get the door. He fails and as a result we get to see a father /son bonding moment during a televised football game (Blonde ponytail wigs, Viking helmets). Blanche, Trudy and the girls reminisce about the different plant bosses they have endured and their respective fates. (One was “accidentally” locked in a freezer over the holiday weekend. Blanche notes that a New Company boss will be arriving and wondering what this one will be like...and telling Trudy she will never get her secret recipe for Tapioca Pudding (a running joke).
Cut to a running Lucy Hill (Renee Zellwegger) along the boardwalk in an upscale Miami development. Lucy goes through her morning routine then drives into work arriving about 4 minutes after a meeting has begun at MUNK industries. The discussion is for the redesign of the New Ulm plant to produce a new energy bar. After the president ask for volunteers to go to Minnesota and everyone else (knowing the fate of the others) ducks their heads to avoid the job, Lucy volunteers for the position knowing that a ripe Vice Presidency awaits her return.
Fade to Lucy's arrival at Minneapolis Airport, where everyone in the baggage claim area is dressed for the cold outside...except Lucy. She proceeds to gather her baggage, sets out for the Rental Car agency, looks out the door of the airport and asks herself, "doesn't look that bad"... Goes out the doors, which close just before her "HOLY .............!!!! and she runs back inside. In her car she drives the long winter road into New Ulm arriving after dark. Stops and meets Blanche and Trudy (her realtor) and accepts the first house she is shown. ("Nice wooden floors but lots of rugs to keep ya feet from freezin in the morning dontchaknow") Blanche invites Lucy over to dinner.
Lucy arrives, bringing wine and after taking off her coat shows everyone just how cold it is outside. (Headlights were on HIGH beam) Lucy is introduced to everyone but is unaware of the issue until she goes into the bathroom and spots the problem. Asking frantically for her coat back.
During dinner she is introduced to and immediately gets on the wrong side of widower Ted (Harry Connick, Jr). Dinner turns into a disaster of minor proportions and Lucy leaves just ahead of the miffed Ted.
Next morning Lucy is in bed and wakens to the reality of wooden floors in Minnesota.
At the plant, Lucy begins to settle in and talks with Blanche about the past night, throwing some more insults at Ted, who just happens to be the area union representative and is waiting just outside her office door which is open. Lucy tries to smooth over the insults and begins negotiations for the conversion with Ted, which includes automation of some processes and will result in layoffs.
Later, Lucy takes a tour of the plant with foreman Stu Kopenhafer (J.K. Simmons -Law & Order, The Closer-) who immediately convinces her to allow the employees to have the next day "Gopher Day" as a holiday day off.
Lucy later learns from the taciturn curmudgeonly waitress Flo (Nancy Drake) at the local restaurant that she's been had and made a fool of by Stu. Lucy tracks down Stu at the local VFW, attempts to engage in a conversation but learns she is the object of a drinking game by everyone when every time she says a double letter word everyone drinks.
Lucy comes into the office on the following Monday to find only Blanche in the office and learns that everyone has taken the first day the lake froze off for Ice Fishing day.
Lucy drives out to Stu's Ice shack (by the way the driving sequence on the ice lake from the trailer is not in the movie) and fires Stu for making a fool out of her twice. Lucy has already started a list of employees to dismiss as a part of the restructuring and Stu's name heads that list. Blanche goes on next as Lucy feels she is not the executive secretary material she should be.
The next day Ted is in her office to inform her she cannot fire Stu for taking Ice Day off as in Minnesota, the first big freeze day is in fact a State Holiday. So Lucy Fires Stu for insubordination.
Lucy is shown some of the quainter traditions of New Ulm like the entire town caroling around a Christmas tree. Lucy later talks with Ted about Stu at a local Hockey game where Ted's daughter Bobbie (Ferron Guerreiro) is the goalie. After some awkward pauses and stuttering moments, Lucy says goodbye. Obviously there is a small spark of attraction.
Lucy goes to Minneapolis to fly to Miami for the long weekend, but arrives to find all flights cancelled. Driving back, she swerves to avoid a cow in the road, plowing into a snow bank wrecking the car. She fashions an emergency flag from a pair of red nighties and settles in with a bottle of local wine to keep warm. Ted happens by sees the bloomers and hears her calls for help. He rescues a rather drunken Lucy and takes her safely home.
The next day Lucy awakens to a hangover and the return of her car. Lucy is in town talking to Blanche and the ladies when Ted comes seeking the ladies guidance on helping Bobbie get ready for a school prom as he has disastrously gotten in way over his head. Lucy steps in and takes Bobbie to Minneapolis to a true 'salon' for a full makeover and her first pair of heels for the dance. Bringing her home to 'introduce" her to Ted, he is awestruck at how much like her mom Bobbie has become. Bobbie's date arrives and after the usual embarrassing father talk about the date... “I've been there, thought the same thoughts, just remember anything you think of doing to my daughter, I’ll do to you").
The kids head off to the dance leaving Lucy and Ted to their own devices. They talk mostly about what brought Ted to Minnesota (his wife's disease brought her to the Mayo Clinic and he just stayed not wanting to take Bobbie away from her memories and friends. Lucy impulsively kissed Ted, who kisses here back fading into... A darkened living room, a car door slamming, Lucy frantically pulling on her clothes while Ted tries to compose himself. Bobbie sees them on the couch together, is a bit confused but not altogether unhappy, goes up to bed and Lucy says goodbye.
Ted calls Lucy and asks if she wants to go do something with him. She accepts and he tells her to wear clothes she does not mind getting a little dirty. He brings her a pair of insulated coveralls and they go out Crow hunting...with Stu, who is none too happy to see Lucy. After some back and forth banter Lucy has to pee. They hand her a roll of paper, and off she goes into the woods. Unfortunately her zipper is stuck, leading to Ted fixing her problem (from the trailer). She shoos Ted off and starts to pee but falls over, dragging her shotgun with her, the gun goes off in the direction of the Crow blind...
Cut to an ambulance and News crew with Ted on the gurney and the doctor explaining that most of the damage was to the buttocks. The news crew anxiously reports the accident as a lover's quarrel. (The Female news reporter got a good laugh on this one)
At the plant Lucy is seeing that the workers in New Ulm are trying to make things work including all wearing bulls eye targets on their butts. Back inside her office, Lucy is trying to stave off a complete shutdown of the plant by Munk HQ after the test sales on the new energy bar fail badly.
Lucy heads out to Miami to try and convince the powers that be the plant and its workers should be saved. She calls Blanche in the office and asks her to get a file for her, which Blanche goes and retrieves, also seeing the firing list with her name near the top.
Lucy is unsuccessful in her efforts to save the plant and given 30 days to set it for closure.
Blanche is at Lucy house having already heard that the plant will close, and chewing Lucy out for having her name on the firing list. Lucy tries to explain to no avail but Blanche tells her that when she gets stressed she cooks and made her some Tapioca. Ted is also pissed at her, feeling like she betrayed him and the people of New Ulm. Lucy is shown eating the tapioca when she is struck with an idea. She collects Blanche, some tapioca and heads to the Great America Mall in Minneapolis, where they conduct their own market survey. The Tapioca is a hit. Lucy gets with Stu to formulate a working plan to use the existing equipment to make the pudding. Several funny scenes showing the workers Stu and even Ted trying to get the old yogurt machinery to transition the plant to Tapioca Pudding. The plan works, the tapioca is a product that can save the plant and the workers. Blanche is shown swearing all the 'cooks' "never to reveal the secret recipe to anyone especially Trudy van UuDen"
Lucy's plan is successful, the pudding is a hit and Lucy gets a promotion to VP in Miami. Lucy gets back into her Miami routine, running along the beach, wearing the nice executive clothes.
After having been gone a while, the plant gets news that the line, and the plant is being sold by Munk to a new business entity, and that someone from Miami is coming to break the bad news. Everyone thinks it will be closed and moved elsewhere.
Stu is harping and griping in the plant when you hear the distinctive Heels walking down the stairs. Lucy explains that she is behind the sale: she lined up the financing to buy the brand from Munk, and with their help, and she can transform the plant into an employee owned business, with her as the plant manager. Ted walks in to hear the speech and asks her if she has a plan on working with the local union and the Union rep on her business plans. Smilingly she says she thinks that negotiations should begin as soon as possible and gives him a big kiss as the movie fades to credits.