America’s Sweethearts
dir Joe Roth
scr Billy Crystal, Peter Tolan
with Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Hank Azaria, Seth Green, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Scot Zeller, Steve Pink, Rainn Wilson, Larry King
release US 20.Jul.01; UK 12.Oct.01
Columbia 01/US 1h42
2½ out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
celebrity, family and other forms of insanity A starry cast and a savvy take on the film business make this comedy worth watching, even though it's a terrible film! Gwen and Eddie (Zeta-Jones and Cusack) are beloved movie stars whose marriage imploded when Gwen ran off with a dull-witted Spaniard (Azaria). Now their last film as a couple is ready for release, and the studio head (Tucci) needs his ace PR guru (Crystal) and Gwen's sister-assistant Kiki (Roberts) to get Hollywood's golden couple together for the glitzy press junket. Even though the film itself is being held hostage by its gonzo-hippie director (Walken). The key wrinkle here is that Kiki has always had a crush on her brother-in-law, who desperately wants to get back with Gwen.

It's this romantic triangle plot that bogs the film down, leaving it limp and surprisingly dull. There's nothing remotely interesting or original going on in this storyline, and we really don't care who gets together with whom at the end (not to mention the fact that it's clear from the start how it'll end). Director Roth never quite comes to grips with the material, blending the romance uneasily with the intelligent comedy and extremely stupid slapstick. Many sequences are drawn out unnecessarily or could have been cut altogether to make the film tighter. But there are still joys to be had along the way: Roberts and Cusack are their usual charming, engaging selves. Crystal's snappy delivery and impeccable timing keep us laughing. And Zeta-Jones is flat-out hilarious as the self-absorbed--and still likable--prima donna. In addition, the film is jammed with hilarious dialog and situations what lampoon the Hollywood studio system with an insider's knowledge and razor sharp wit. This side of the script works wonderfully ... it's just a pity it has to war against a lame romance for our attention.

themes, language cert 12 24.Aug.01

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"America's Sweethearts is one of those films I really wanted to like. Cusack is one of my favorite actors, and I really like most of the cast; they just weren't given much to work with. Even Azaria's goofball macho Latin lover seemed like a rehash of his goofball gay Cuban in The Birdcage - and not as funny. Eddie's (Cusack) about-face from Gwen (Zeta-Jones) to Kiki (Roberts) could have been done believably, but wasn't. Crystal, Walken, Arkin and Tucci were entertaining as always - I just felt like the film used too many 'known' actors doing the same old shtick. Some fresh faces and a better script would've made a difference. The most interesting thing in the film was seeing what Julia Roberts looks like 60 lbs overweight!" --Indigo Jen, Los Angeles 31.Jul.01.

the director's got a problem "Let's face it - there's no rocket science going on here, but I thought America's Sweethearts was a very pleasant way to spend a fiver at the cinema. Despite a plot that was flimsy and predictable, the cast was strong enough to make the best of things - and I thought it had some really funny moments, especially from Catherine Zeta Jones, and I enjoyed the sending-up of the Hollywood publicity machine. I don't think there's a John Cusack or Julia Roberts film that I haven't seen, and I thought this film had enough feel-good quality to make it worthwhile." --Jo Caswell, West Sussex 23.Oct.01

© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall