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   AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS (2001) 

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CAST
Julia Roberts
Catherine Zeta-Jones
John Cusack
Billy Crystal
Hank Azaria
Stanley Tucci
Christopher Walken
Alan Arkin
Seth Green
Scott Zeller

DIRECTED BY
Joe Roth

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 101 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romantic Comedy


It's not everyday that movie goers are blessed with a talented cast such as the one in this film, so I figured it would be worth at least the price of admission to see this crew make fools of themselves in the name of love. I happen to be one of those people who actually likes Julia Roberts, though I can understand why others don't. I also have a soft spot for both Billy Crystal and John Cusack, so I knew going in that this was a film I would probably like. For the most part, I did, though it wasn't half as clever or funny as I hoped. It was fairly romantic and there is much merriment to be had, I was just expecting more. For reference, it's not as lovely and endearing as NOTTING HILL, but not as trite and obvious as RUNAWAY BRIDE. This is more of an ensemble piece, so it's not exactly fair to judge it as a Robert's vehicle, but since she's the biggest name in the mix, it still falls to her to sell tickets.

As a behind the scenes look at a Hollywood superstar couple's relationship disaster, it's amusing enough, though nothing one hasn't seen before. Cusack and Zeta-Jones are pretty funny as the couple all America wants to see stay together onscreen, but who can't live with each other off. This press junket for their final film is Eddie (Cusack) and Gwen's (Zeta-Jones) last chance to salvage their careers and potentially their marriage. There's just a few small problems: Eddie's gone off the deep end, Gwen's shacking up with a fiery Spaniard (played horribly over-the-top by Hank Azaria) and their film is still in the hands of its' crazy, reclusive director.

It's the job of super publicist Lee (Crystal) and Gwen's sister/assistant Kiki (Roberts) to keep Gwen and Eddie from killing each other and the reporters out of the loop...unless it helps get free publicity for the movie. It doesn't take long for things to get out of hand, especially since Kiki believes she's in love with Eddie. She tries to keep her feelings out of the melee, mainly because it's quite clear that Eddie still harbors a deep attachment to Gwen. Well, in the course of the weekend, one thing leads to another and they wind up in bed together. However, her dreams of a happy ending with Eddie don't go exactly as she thought.


Lee: "The movie was fantastic! Everyone loved it! They call it the Blair Bitch Project."

Gwen's not quite finished with him, especially after seeing how the press loves them together, thinking that maybe they should stay together for the sake of their careers. Eddie is torn between his tortured past and a future he never imagined. The screening of their final film brings everything to a head, exposing Gwen for the cold-hearted bitch that she is, Eddie for the lovable chump and Kiki as the person between a rock and a hard place. In the end, it all works out for the best with Eddie winning Kiki's heart, Kiki freeing herself from her sister's tyranny and Gwen spinning everything to her best advantage.

SWEETHEARTS is more love triangle than Hollywood exposé, using the characters movie star status as more of a launching point than a destination. Cusack and Roberts are adorable as always and have a nice spark between them. Zeta-Jones is the sister you love to hate, managing to keep Gwen just this side of loathsome. She makes Gwen a real person, not just a caricature, though I'm glad she's not my relative. Crystal is the man behind the machinations and it was fun to see him on the big screen again. This is a part he could do in his sleep, yet he manages to carve out a few moments to shine.

There's not much to say about Walken. He was hired to play a fanatical, genius director. He does his job. If there's a weak link to this picture it's Hank Azaria. The annoyingly fake accent and macho posturing, just didn't work for me. He's more silly than sexy, which makes Gwen's attraction to him completely unbelievable. The film would have been much stronger if they had her leave Eddie for someone more appealing...or at least an equal. Maybe his box office rival.

As romantic comedies go, this is better than most, but not in the top tier. I probably won't watch it again unless I have nothing else to do. It's enjoyable enough if you like the cast, but nothing you'll remember the next day. If you're tired of all those thinly-plotted, special effects extravaganzas, then you'll appreciate the energy, romance and humor of this flick. Those looking for clever wit and true love might want to look elsewhere.


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