America's Sweethearts Movie Review

Would you believe -- in real life, I mean -- that if you were Julia Roberts, that you'd be the ugly underdog to your sister, the creepy Catherine Zeta-Jones?

Let me tell you what reality is. Reality is that you are megastar Julia Fricking Roberts and your brother is Eric Roberts, and he picks up whatever crumbs of stardom fall off your coattails as you blaze across the sky in a golden chariot.

That's reality. America's Sweethearts is the opposite of reality, a train wreck that tries to sell Julia as a scruffy also-ran, presumably because she wears horn-rimmed glasses and used to be overweight (uh-huh).

The plot follows two married, mega-movie stars, Gwen and Eddie (Zeta-Jones and poor, poor John Cusack, whose material gets worse every year), on the eve of their new star vehicle's release, a film called Time Over Time. The only problem: Gwen and Eddie have gone through a nasty separation, and the press and public have not been forgiving (think Meg and Dennis). Gosh, and the director has vanished with the film, holding the only print hostage. Veteran PR agent Lee (Billy Crystal) is called upon to clean up the mess, throwing a press junket in the Nevada desert to woo them with the story of a possible reconciliation between the Gwen and Eddie, presumably distracting the stupid, stupid film critics into forgetting they haven't seen the movie at all. (Note to Sony: Any studio executive that thinks this plot is going to win points with the reviewing press needs to check into rehab.)

And did I mention Gwen's sister Kiki (Roberts) is along for the ride? And that she and Eddie just might fall in love along the way?

Oh Billy, you're a scamp! The script you've co-written with Peter Tolan (What Planet Are You From? and Bedazzled -- need I say more?) is a roast of Hollywood and celebrity, sure, but it's not a funny one. Yes, Crystal tells us, Hollywood is lying to our faces! If you are surprised by this, you might want to check on your subscription to People magazine. It's about to expire.

Aside from a scant few zingers (Yeah, Señor Winces rules!), America's Sweethearts' jokes aren't funny, its pace is choppy, and the whole affair comes off as a vanity project -- not for headlining star Julia Roberts -- but for Billy Crystal to deliver a bunch of lame punch lines that he wrote himself. I didn't time it (the movie's not that bad), but it's Crystal who really has the most screen time and is the unequivocal focus of the film. Bad move, Billy -- your jokes suck. The crotch humor is outpaced only by the meanness of the movie's gags -- and with unsubtle sexual innuendo dripping from every scene, how this movie earned a PG-13 rating is a mystery to me.

Julia overcame a lot of spiteful writing and acting to make My Best Friend's Wedding into a winning film, but not even that 90-tooth smile can save her here. Obviously aware of the ugliness before him, director Joe Roth turns to goofy supporting characters like Hank Azaria (as a lisping Spaniard), Christopher Walken (the insane Time Over Time director), and Alan Arkin (a New Age guru in a fright wig) to crack wise. None of the stereotypes are successful except for Walken; Azaria comes off as a preening queen when he's supposed to be macho. As for Roth, in case you don't know, went from direcing Revenge of the Nerds II to launching his own movie studio, Revolution, which produced this work. He's back behind the camera for the first time in 11 years. It'll probably be another 11 before he's back again.

I could drone on about how America's Sweethearts will only appeal to the mouth-breathing morons who talk on their cell phones during the movies, but that would get old. Instead, I'll settle for discussing the movie's worst sin: that Sweethearts is painfully contrived and wholly unbelievable, not just in its plot but in its sentiment. Every single character in this film (with the arguable exception of Kiki) is simply hateful, and putting them in a romantic comedy is a waste of a bunch of villains. When you leave the theater, you'll ask yourself, too: Why would I want any of these jerks to be happy?

My kind of dilemma.


America's Sweethearts Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2001


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