Trying perhaps a little too hard to prove women can be every bit as bawdy as men, "The Sweetest Thing" is a raunchy romantic comedy in the "There's Something About Mary" vein, focused on a female protagonist.
Cameron Diaz -- "Mary's" Mary -- plays a confirmed, no-commitments party girl who unexpectedly meets a guy that makes her heart go all aflutter. It's a movie with likable characters and a take-no-prisoners comedic free spirit, but its plot never develops much beyond its function as scaffolding to hang racy jokes upon.
As usual, Diaz is a delight playing a club-hopping, bed-hopping beauty who lives by the philosophy of looking for Mr. Right Now. In the process, she and her best friend (Christina Applegate) tease their way through the San Francisco singles scene, giving fake phone numbers to guys who buy them drinks all night and leaving behind libidos in limbo and even some broken hearts.
So our heroine is really thrown for a loop when she gets in an argument with a cute guy (Thomas Jane, "Deep Blue Sea") in a bar -- she pinched his butt as a conversation starter -- then can't get him out of her mind. She can't get him out of her dreams either, especially not the one in which he's under her bed sheets, pleasuring her while she chows down on ice cream.
Egged on by the trouble-making Applegate (who gets that "Married With Children" monkey off her back with a sublime -- but not scene-stealing -- comedic performance), Diaz goes hunting for this unforgettable fellow, even crashing a wedding he'd mentioned in passing once they'd stopped sniping and started flirting that night.
Ripe with abundantly askew comedic dialogue and moments of memorable absurdity, "The Sweetest Thing" rings true from its women's point of view, thanks to the wicked writing of Nancy M. Pimental. (Her kinky cachet includes a stint as a "South Park" writer and her gig co-hosting the wry cable quiz show "Win Ben Stein's Money.")
The friendship she's written between the two leads benefits from so much authenticity that they even share in jokes that aren't explained to the audience. The picture has hilarious perspectives on such subjects as breast implants (Applegate carries on a normal conversation in a nightclub ladies' room while flat-chested admirers feel her up) and the use of the men's room in an emergency (the sight of Applegate using a urinal is a perfectly played preposterous moment).
Yet for all its attempts to balance the risqué and the romantic, "The Sweetest Thing" has little to say on the subject of love. Its sincere side seems to have been left on the cutting room floor along with a whole slew of other story elements. Part way through the film, for example, Applegate gets a long-term boyfriend, who turns up for 30 seconds before disappearing completely. Then there's poor Selma Blair ("Legally Blonde," "Cruel Intentions") who does her best with the forgotten role of a third best friend -- Diaz and Applegate's more commitment-friendly gal pal -- who exists only to up the movie's off-color ante with superfluous, long-running scenes about oral sex accidents involving body piercings.
In the process of trimming the movie to an expeditious 84 minutes, director Roger Kumble (who helmed "Cruel Intentions") seems to have dumped a whole lot of plot (not to mention almost every scene shown the TV commercials) in favor of such outrageous gags. But he does have an irreverent sense of humor ("Do we have time for a movie montage?" asks Applegate during a dressing room scene that then spoofs about 15 other films with quickie wardrobe changes). He also shows a talent for getting maximum personality out of minimal characters. Blair is great, what little there is of her, and other supporting performances by Parker Posey and Jason Bateman are just as memorable.
What he can't seem to do is edit together a version of this movie that doesn't feel as if it's been run through a cheese grater. If you stick around to watch the credits, you'll see just how much footage never made it into the finished film from the surprisingly lame out-takes.
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th April 2002
Box Office USA: $24.4M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Konrad Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 79
IMDB: 5.0 / 10
Director: Roger Kumble
Starring: Cameron Diaz as Christina Walters, Christina Applegate as Courtney Rockcliffe, Selma Blair as Jane Burns, Thomas Jane as Peter Donahue, Frank Grillo as Andy, Jason Bateman as Roger Donahue, Eddie McClintock as Michael, Parker Posey as Judy Webb, James Mangold as Dr. Greg
Also starring: Johnathon Schaech