Mark Reviews Movies

AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Joe Roth

Cast: Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for language, some crude and sexual humor)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 7/20/01


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Like the one the characters of the title are involved in, Americaís Sweethearts is an unhappy marriage but of two genresósatire and romantic comedy. Hereís a movie that tries to accomplish both, but the result is an unsuccessful mesh. Itís sweet when it should be meanómellow when it should be bouncing off the walls. The satirical elements of the movie are its most promising, but the combination crams them into a formula. There have been a lot of movies about how fake Hollywood is, but this is the fake Hollywood movie about how fake Hollywood is.

Gwen Harrison and Eddie Thomas (Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack) were the most popular celebrity couple, on-screen and off. But their marriage hit a wall when Gwen started an affair with Hector (Hank Azaria), a Spanish actor. After an incident with a motorcycle (he says, "accident"; she says, "attempted murder"), Eddie is placed in a rehabilitation facility, and since their breakup, Gwen has had a string of box office flops. Their last movie together has been held back (the director is still editing in the Unabomberís shack, now in his backyard), and the studioís publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) is given the job to get a press junket together that will concentrate on the coupleís possible reunion and avoid the absence of a movie for screening.

Upon arrival, the stars go through the average duties of a press junket, and Lee tries to exploit the coupleís actions. On the sidelines is Gwenís assistant and sister Kiki (Julia Roberts) who has lost sixty pounds since the breakup. Is it any secret that she has feelings for Eddie? Well, as in any romantic comedy, itís a secret only to everyone on-screen. Thereís a smaller secret that she keeps from Eddie that everyone in the audience will know seconds after itís hinted at. The whole romance angle of the movie is simple and put on. Thereís nothing new or interesting here. Itís obvious that Roberts is not plain, and itís impossible to care for these characters.

Both satire and romantic comedy depend on characters. In satire, there have to be recognizable caricatures. In romantic comedy, there have to be sympathetic characters. The characters here are too fleshed out for broad, satirical humor and too thin for sympathy. The movie wants us to laugh at and feel for these characters at the same time, and it doesnít work. There are smaller roles that successfully satirize Hollywood. For example, Stanley Tucci plays a studio exec, and his scenes have a strong bite. The director is played by Christopher Walken, and his scenes are amusing. However, they have minor roles compared to Hector. Hector is a one-joke character, and the joke is a pathetic one. He has an accent. Itís simply not funny, and it doesnít have anything to say about Hollywood.

The whole movie has this problem. It sets up targets and never actually tries to mock them. The press junket set-up is a prime example. We know what happens at these things. The studio gives journalists a free vacation with nice perks for one reasonóto see and comment on a movie. One of the journalists present sarcastically says, "I can do an interview about a movie I havenít seen yet." Whatís ironic is that they do. Sometimes they even write mini-reviews of movies they havenít seen yet. The whole movie has this tendency to be nice. That alone defeats the purpose of satire. If you want to make a point, you might have to hurt some feelings along the way.

Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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