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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

America's Sweethearts (2001)



Reviews and Comments

America's Sweethearts is bland, uninspired, and forgettable. It suffers from an identity crisis. What is it trying to be? It's not funny enough to be a good comedy, not believable enough to be a good drama, not cutting enough to be a good satire, and not tender enough to be a good romance. It does little badly but nothing well, which is surprising given the caliber of the cast. How can the ensemble of John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Hank Azaria, Christopher Walken, Stanley Tucci, and Alan Arkin not make a mark? It just goes to show you, if you don't have a decent script, you don't have anything.

I did laugh at the occasional amusing line, but I also winced at out-of-place moments of tastelessness unmitigated by wit or irony. Did this impressive cast actually assemble together to recreate junior high school locker room gags? If you're going to be crude, at least do it with style and calculated comic timing, as in There's Something About Mary, which gets away with a lot more than America's Sweethearts gets caught for. The "style" in America's Sweethearts is no more sophisticated than pointing and snickering.

The romance angle is silly. It's compromised, I think, by failed comedic attempts. The situational comedy between Cusack, Zeta-Jones, and Roberts makes a farce out of the character relationships; consequently, whenever the movie tries to be sincere, it lacks the emotional momentum to pull it off. Comedic dramas should never compromise their characters for the sake of humor; rather, the characters should be genuine, and the humor should emerge from their natural personalities. But Roberts' character is the only one of the bunch that seems like a genuine, feeling individual; the others are caricatures stuffed through plot hoops as the story dictates.

The end is absurdly confused. An old cliche is used: get the characters, each in turn, to air their disputes with each other and confess their hearts in front of an audience of strangers. Can anyone believe these particular characters would do that, even within the skewed rules of comedy? Can anyone believe that such an episode would result in a just and tidy resolution for all conflicts? It's not only unbelievable but unsatisfying as well. Nobody seems to get the proper comeuppance, and it's hard to cheer for the goodguys, since, after all, they meet their fates not by being honest with themselves and with each other but by being mashed through still more plot hoops.

If I may indulge myself in a frightfully witty analogy all of my very own, this movie is like a flock of sheep at a sheepdog trial. The sheepdog, with continuous and calculated maneuvering, herds the sheep around obstacles and through gates and over hills and into pens, and then the farmer turns to us and tells us the dog wasn't there at all, that, in fact, the sheep -- or, rather, the characters in this movie -- did all those things because it was in their nature to do so, and weren't they so entertaining to watch? If you believe him, you might as well believe the filmmakers of America's Sweethearts, too.