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There is a good formula film and there is a bad formula film...surprisingly, after watching America's Sweethearts, one can now say that there is also middle of the road formula.
America's Sweethearts sets up the basic romantic comedy in what should be a very witty and perhaps even catty setting, the press junket. In fact, everything about this movie begs to be a hit. By casting Catherine Zeta Jones as Gwen and John Cusack as Eddie, the fictitious Hollywood Couple that has split up, one might think that's some solid star power.
Then they top themselves and have the idea of casting occasional funny man Billy Crystal as their press agent who needs them to woo the press so he can keep his job. Not a bad turn of events, makes for some interesting twisting of psyches.
But the capper, let's cast Julia Roberts as Kiki, Gwen's formerly fat sister who Eddie can turn to and fall in love with. Throw in Hollywood jokes, paparazzi pokes and some snide remarks about critics (because basically we all suck as human beings...critics that is.) and you have a grand slam box office hit. Which, is exactly what the studio did have. Sure they forked out almost 50 million for the film but they ended up just under the hundred mark, it was a date movie in a rather lacklustre action movie summer.
The problem is, with a cast this good, shouldn't the film have matched their talents? One would like to think so but really the film doesn't quite reach that level. It starts out strong, with some great fictitious movie parodies for Cusack and Zeta Jones to parody, winking at the audience as they do so. In fact the first 20 minutes or so are a nice coasting ride, but the middle lags with all the back-stabbing and will-they/won't they get together scenarios. When it does pick up towards the end it is almost too late.
Not a waste of a time, a good way to spend a casual rainy afternoon but not one I will be adding to my collection any day soon (see the DVD review below).
Some stand outs worth mentioning...hands down, Christopher Walken as the deranged director that holds a major studios film hostage that sets this entire films events rolling. An inspired character who is only seen at the beginning and the end. Alan Arkin in a cameo role mimicking his Grosse Point Blank psychiatrist role to Cusack's problems has some funny moments, and Stanley Tucci, while good is completely under used.
Finally, Hank Azaria. He is busy playing Gwen (Zeta Jones) Spanish lover...there is no accent or goofy character that Azaria can not nail. I wonder what it might be like to see him carry a movie, but then again, perhaps it is best that we get him in brilliant small doses and he never wears out a welcome.
Out of a 100...I'm ranging around 67 on this one...but bonus marks for the brilliant gag of Christopher Walken using the Unabombers shack as his editing room...an even 70.
Copyright© Written By Staffwriter: Rob Paul
Deleted Scenes with Director's Introductions
Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC]
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Surround [CC]
FRENCH: Dolby Digital Stereo
The DVD Review:
America's Sweethearts is released in a way I wish more discs were...a choice in both formats...either wide screen or DVD. You pop the disc in and the first thing that you get is not the menu screen but the choice of how you would like to view it. I realize not all people appreciate wide screen (why this is I will never understand) and to have the choice and not worry about buying the wrong version is something to appreciate. That is the best feature on this disc...and now the rant begins...
You know what I have never understood? They release the DVD of the movie. It has no commentary by any cast or the director on any of the audio tracks...but it does feature deleted scenes, and the deleted scenes have commentary...what the hell is that about?
America's Sweethearts has several deleted scenes that can be watched on their own, or viewed with an introduction by Joe Roth explaining why they were cut from the film. Obviously he took the time to go into the studio, sit on camera and discuss these clips, why not take the extra hour and a half and spiel about the film itself?
Anyway, having ranted about that...the deleted scenes...not bad. A couple would have destroyed either the flow of the film (which plods in points as it is) or revamped the perception of Cusack's character making him slightly less likeable...thereby destroying the female viewer's idea of his character. However, there is one scene with Hank Azaria that appears in the film in a trimmed down version...they should have left it alone, it is actually funnier than the scene that stands now.
In fact the extras on this disc are pretty thin. The theatrical trailers are for The Mask Of Zorro and America's Sweethearts. What is interesting about America's Sweethearts theatrical trailer...about six of the shots in it do not appear in the movie. This, coupled with the lack of audio commentary makes me wonder if a special edition disc might not be slated for release somewhere down the line.
To finish up here...unless you are a big fan of the cast, or the movie itself, this is a renter. If this is the only title you need to finish off your Julia Roberts film collection, then go ahead, pick it up...but please, watch it in Widescreen.