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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.9%
Worth A Look: 21.43%
Pretty Bad: 19.05%
Total Crap: 10.71%

6 reviews, 48 user ratings

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America's Sweethearts
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by Erik Childress

"Hollywood Satire Bites Off Less Than We Can Swallow"
3 stars

There are many things about screenplays that I hate. Two of them that pop up from time to time include (1) a moment during a film when one character professes his or her feelings whether good or bad about a character or makes some pseudo-important speech. They do this not with the blanket of privacy that any regular human being would choose to embrace, but in front of a large group of people, acting like an electronic applause sign in clothes cueing the theater that, yes, this is the time to put your hands together. And (2) the grand salami of romantic comedies – the break-up. After two characters have spent 80 minutes plus working out their differences and falling in love, Screenwriting 100 (not even 101) stipulates that they must now come to an impasse, get mad and get apart until they can following work everything out for a happy ending. Both these instances occur in the very long final half hour of America’s Sweethearts, which despite being wildly uneven, still manages to entertain thanks to its appealing stars.

The premise is ripe for a classic Hollywood farce. Two moviestars who met and fall in love through the course of making film-after-film together have now broken up. But their final unreleased, in-the-can, project awaits audiences everywhere, if only the studio can retrieve it from the Terrence Malick/Stanley Kubrick-like director, played by Christopher Walken. It’s then up to the recently fired publicist, Lee (Billy Crystal), to fire up a scheme to distract the quote whore junketeers from the fact that they haven’t seen the finished product and that there’s a bigger story to cover.

That big headline would be the reunion of Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) and Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones). A daunting task considering Eddie has flown the way of the nut into a spiritual healing center after the “attempted murder” of Gwen and her jealous Latin lover, Hector (a very funny Hank Azaria, resurrecting his Birdcage accent). Helping Lee to bring these two together is Gwen’s publicist sister and personal assistant, Kiki (Julia Roberts), who has held a longstanding crush on Eddie who treated her well years back and 60 pounds ago.

The tables are set. The characters are willing. So why does America’s Sweethearts come up so short? Partly because it has a hard time finding the tone it wants to monopolize. Can a cynical satire not too far removed from the tabloid fascination of high-profile divorces like Meg Ryan/Dennis Quaid and Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman still have enough sweetness to satisfy the sugar teeth of audiences and deliver a happy ending? The answer is yes and no.

This is a kind of biting Hollywood satire for those who know what they know about the industry from Entertainment Tonight. A Hot Wing cooked with a mild sauce alongside some refreshing sorbet to make it go down easier. There are many funny lines to be found, but entire scenes fail to go the extra mile and keep us wondering what the real attitude is towards some of these characters and situations.

Billy Crystal’s publicist character is certainly a confused creation, seemingly switching agendas from scene to scene. Sure, his job is to create and manufacture publicity for the cash cow-in waiting, but how far does that plan stretch, when in-between acting duplicitously is having heartfelt conversations with others and seems genuinely interested in resolving their problems.

Another big miscue comes in the treatment of the junket press. No, I wasn’t offended, because I think press junkets are one of many problems with the film industry today. The problem is that I don’t believe the junket press will be offended either. Everyone has, in some way, heard the stories about these people, even before the “David Manning” incident. They are a group of “writers” who are flown in by studios, put up in nice hotels for the weekend, showered with lovely little grab bags of merchandise, and then shown their latest film. The result? Glowing reviews across the board waiting to litter newspapers with snappy (yet thoughtless) little blurbs telling you how great the picture is even if you have no clue who they are or what their affiliation is. (Tip: If you see these names on a print ad, run, don’t walk, away from the movie – Mark S. Allen, Jeff Craig, Earl Dittman, Shawn Edwards, Jim Ferguson, Mose Persico & Maria Salas)

You won’t see any of those names in America’s Sweethearts, but you will see Byron Allen and even Sam Rubin, who is such a media whore he doesn’t even play himself in the movie. A whore in slut’s clothing, if you will. Since the movie takes place over the course of a weekend junket, the full ramifications of these targets-in-waiting cannot be fully exploited. Even the endless hours of interviews fails to drum up the hilarity of Hugh Grant’s “Horse & Hound” charade in a far better Julia Roberts film, “Notting Hill”, which also delved into issues of celebrity privacy.

Insider issues aside, America’s Sweethearts does (mostly) satisfy as light, breezy entertainment in the romantic comedy field. Most of that success is contributed to the cast. Julia Roberts and John Cusack have such wonderful chemistry together that you only wish upon these two stars that they could have had more scenes together. Other than Crystal’s serrated character traits, he still pulls off more than a few great laughs. Stanley Tucci (as the film’s producer) is funny, but appears out of that more misanthropic tale that got lost somewhere along the line. Zeta doesn’t have much to work with out of a single dimension of bitchiness, but that one level has to work to make the other characters appear likable, which it does. Alan Arkin has an amusing cameo, but I don’t know how it’s possible for a film to waste Seth Green as a lackey with no real chance to improvise.

Of course then there is that final half-hour, which goes through all the Syd Field methodology of screenwriting to arrive at its conclusion. Even the big climax of showing the film-within-the-film fails to garner more than a few simple laughs and does nothing but give the characters an excuse to air their laundry right in front of the very people that they should be keeping it away from.

Maybe there’s an irony to all of it that I just neglected. The whole Catch-22 of it all how celebrities need the press and paparazzi who still manage to break through more than a fourth wall to get the famous at their most vulnerable. Then again, maybe this is just a simple romantic comedy with just enough edge to make it a tad cut above your average romantic comedy. The script, like Crystal’s publicist character, tries to play every possible angle. It’s entertaining and funny enough, but like your average quote whore, shows you what you’d like to see, even if it’s not entirely what is deserved.

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originally posted: 07/20/01 08:11:55
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User Comments

11/23/17 Katrina c America,s sweethearts was fun to watch i love billy crystal 4 stars
8/05/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Hit and miss 3 stars
7/27/09 RLan Good cast hampered by a real bad script. 2 stars
9/28/08 Samantha Pruitt very funny and smart, cute characters 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies I don't know why I bothered. 2 stars
7/27/04 Desperado One of the funniest movies I have seen, if u dont like it ur a dipshit 5 stars
6/10/04 Crystal the worst movie ever 1 stars
1/01/04 Monster W. Kung Starts out ok, then falls apart. 2 stars
10/12/03 laura paterson only thing that spoils it is Zeta-Jones! otherwise perfect cast! 4 stars
5/06/03 Joesco Nowhere near as cynically pointed as it could have been and a waste of the stars 2 stars
1/06/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Dear Joe Roth, fuck you! The ultimate let down ever! 1 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Very Disappointing 2 stars
6/13/02 Bada Bing Crosby movie was crap, kinda like Gary Vidmar's disrespect for women 1 stars
6/12/02 hilarydsur awesome-hilarious 5 stars
4/04/02 cat I love John, I love Catherine, I love Julia, but the end was the only remotely funny part. 4 stars
3/04/02 Marcia Lartz Fairly good. Surprising to see C. Zeta-Jones rebound so well from being stuck up in traffic 4 stars
12/17/01 The Bomb 69 I hate to admit it but I laughed quite often!!! 4 stars
12/08/01 Corinna Adam Great Movie,with very great John Cusack 5 stars
11/22/01 Andrew Carden So Funny, and The Best Direction For 2001! 5 stars
11/10/01 jawsboy cusack kicks ass, but the trailer was probably better than this movie. entertaining though. 3 stars
10/27/01 Lydia It was a great movie , I can't stop laughing since the movie started 5 stars
10/02/01 Phoenix I didn't think I would like it, but it was a hilarious film. 5 stars
9/13/01 Lynda See it on video. 3 stars
8/22/01 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Julia Roberts looks like a female Mr Ed. How did she become a movie star? 2 stars
8/18/01 Suzz not bad but not good either 3 stars
8/05/01 rogue I have to love Cusack in any movie, And Crystal was a riot, Julia i could have done without 4 stars
8/05/01 Greyjack Crystal & Cusack are very funny; Zeta Jones looks great as always. Fun movie. 4 stars
8/05/01 Jarred Are there any other actress in Hollwood 'cept julia and "j-ho/lo" 1 stars
8/05/01 Diana Uhrich Disappointig. Some vulgar scenes. Good chemistry between Roberts and Cusack. 3 stars
8/04/01 Mortis Usually I never pay to see Julia's film -I vow to never pay again! I want my money back! 1 stars
7/31/01 BBReBozo If I wasn't in the middle of my crowded row, I would have walked out of this piece of fuck. 1 stars
7/30/01 John Lyons Funny, but really tired of Julia Roberts 4 stars
7/30/01 glo funny in spots. crystal is great as usual. julia roberts is eye candy along with zeta jones 3 stars
7/29/01 GUV'Ness Julia's annoying screaching cackle of a laugh is getting old very old 1 stars
7/28/01 Geebo Cusack was great, the movie was okay. 4 stars
7/28/01 Denise Overall very amusing, laughs make up for its shortcomings 4 stars
7/27/01 Susan Great people, but the writing SUCKED!! 2 stars
7/25/01 Jim Muller I wanted to "Like" this movie. It wasn't REAL enough to allow me to "CARE". "INSIDE JOKE"-? 2 stars
7/24/01 Belittle This was great, anyone that disagrees is RETARDED 5 stars
7/24/01 jada john WHY?????? 2 stars
7/24/01 Debbie Great movie - lots of fun. If Julia smiles, its got to be good! 5 stars
7/23/01 anusface billy crystal's face on poster: I will never see this shitpile, craphole, vomit-bag garbge 1 stars
7/22/01 tom rush a really funny enjoyable film 5 stars
7/22/01 sdfk Worth it for several good moments and lines 4 stars
7/21/01 John Torres Julia Roberts she suck in everthing shes in 2 stars
7/21/01 Jake Ugh! What crap. I'm so sick of seeing the trailer on TV. 1 stars
7/20/01 Roselani Scott Great movie. I loved it! 5 stars
7/18/01 Mr. Shmegma Julia & John are great, but a very weak picture. 3 stars
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  04-Oct-2001 (M)

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