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Sweet Home Alabama

Twentysomething Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) is soon to be the toast of New York — an up-and-coming fashion designer, there's strong buzz surrounding her newest line. What's more, she's engaged to marry Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), the son of the city's hard-nosed mayor (Candace Bergen). The only problem is that Melanie is already married — to her childhood sweetheart Jake (Josh Lucas), whom she abandoned seven years earlier when she left Alabama for the big city. Over the years she's sent Jake divorce papers, only to have them returned unsigned. Thus Melanie hops a flight to her home state in order to confront Jake and get his name on the line that is dotted — only to discover that very few things have changed, except herself. Sweet Home Alabama is a fairly routine rom-com, and how much you enjoy it will come down pretty much to how much you like Reese Witherspoon. The latest in a long line of Tinseltown It-Girls, she's certainly not above a silly bit of fluff (Legally Blonde), but she's also shown an interest in smarter comedies (Election) and more ambitious material (Pleasantville, The Importance of Being Earnest). This time around it looks as if Reese is taking a slow lap, or perhaps collecting a paycheck while on vacation. Alabama has its amusing moments, but it fails to be surprising on any level. Her reunion with Jake is completely assured when they meet again and fight like little children; the movie does nothing to break down cultural stereotypes, instead utilizing down-home, dumb-hick characters to fill in the background; and since Hollywood apparently has carte blanche to engage in gay stereotypes, we get a couple of those as well. That said, the supporting cast is likable, with Josh Lucas mining genuine humanity from the character of Jake, while Patrick Dempsey as Andrew is appropriately tender, and Candace Bergen gets to play the bitch as the poll-obsessed mayor who is opposed to her son's impending marriage. As easy on the intellect as Reese is on the eyes, Sweet Home Alabama is as unchallenging as comedies come. Buena Vista's DVD release features a strong anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a chatty commentary with director Andy Tennant, eight deleted scenes, a half-baked alternate ending (thankfully scrubbed), and a music video. Keep-case.

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