[box cover]

America's Sweethearts

Julia Roberts is like your mother. In some stretches of time you love her, while in other moments she's shrill, annoying, whiny, and secretly bitchy. Thus, watching Julia Roberts in America's Sweethearts is like seeing your mother during one of those ill-fated Thanksgiving dinners — she's trying too hard to make you appreciate everything she does, but you're not buying the martyrdom. Add the whole damn family to the mess and you've got a movie that's begs the question: May I please be excused to join Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christopher Walken, and maybe Billy Crystal for an entirely different dinner? Anywhere? Family is an apt analogy, as this lumpish satire concerns sisters Kiki (Roberts) and Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones). While the once-overweight but now slim and pretty Kiki must schlep and serve as her sister's personal assistant, Gwen is a blockbuster movie actress teamed with her husband, fellow mega-star Eddie Thomas (John Cusack). Gwen and Eddie have starred in many hits, ludicrously titled melodramas like The Bench and Sasha and the Optometrist. Their newest — and last — movie together is Time Over Time, directed by the Oscar-winning director Hal Weidman (a perfect Christopher Walken, based on the late, great director Hal Ashby, who would be insulted to be a part of this film). The studio thinks they've got a hit on their hands until major dilemmas arise — editing-obsessed hippie Hal has taken the movie hostage in the same shack as the Unabomber's (the film's slyest crack), and Eddie and Gwen have broken up. What's worse, the prima donna Gwen has taken up with a Spanish actor named Hector (Hank Azaria). Even though everyone hates her, the amiable Eddie wants Gwen back, and he seeks Kiki for advice. But Kiki starts falling for Eddie, and what do you know? Eddie starts falling for Kiki, even though we're never given any good reason why. Perhaps we're supposed to count on the charm of Julia Roberts, even though she's a passive-aggressive husband-stealer who puts up with her sister's tirades. Meanwhile, Cusack as Eddie would be much more interesting if he was less of a saint (something one of the deleted scenes on this disc suggests). And while Zeta-Jones as Gwen is supposed to be the scapegoat for all of Hollywood's ills, we don't hate her, and watching her soar over nearly every other actor's comic timing (excluding Walken and Crystal) makes her immensely likable. America's Sweethearts attempts to gently mock the hollowness of Hollywood, but the picture is one long exercise in missed comic possibilities. There are some funny moments here, but with a cast led by Roberts its one big marketing coup. In a terrific deleted scene in which Walken's Hal is aided by a tow truck driver while his car is stuck on a desolate road, Hal rants: "Hollywood does not care about truth, beauty and purity. It's a town of butchers serving up product wrapped in shiny plastic packages to an audience be-numbed by the relentless stream of dreck that's been shoved onto their plates." Wonder why that scene was deleted? Columbia TriStar's America's Sweethearts offers a lovely anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) as well as pan-and-scan (1.33:1), while audio is available in DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround, along with English and French subtitles. Supplements include deleted scenes with introductions and commentary from director Joe Roth, filmographies, and trailers. Keep-case.
—Kim Morgan

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