America’s Sweethearts Review

Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the theatrical release of America’s Sweethearts.

A lightweight Hollywood romcom with a heavy cast and low on laughs. Opens tomorrow.

Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) are the hottest showbiz couple in Hollywood. Out of their last nine films together, six have grossed over one hundred million dollars. Their on-screen chemistry is unrivalled, and the public adulation for the couple is phenomenal. Their most recent movie has seen them team with up legendary yet elusive director Hal Weidmann (the legendary Christopher Walken), and has taken two years to finish. The problem for the studio is that two years ago, the couple split up and decided to not team up on screen again, as Gwen had left Eddie for a Spanish Dancer (played with a delightfully dominant Spanish accent by The Simpson‘s Hank Azaria). The public has reacted strongly against the split up of Eddie and Gwen, and this is reflected in their poor box office showings of late. Upon preparing information for the couple’s last film’s press release junket, the studio head is anxious as the director Weidmann is holding all copies of the film hostage, and will only show the film to the studio in front of the press at the junket. In order to divert attention away from Weidmann’s strange antics, the studio hires publicist Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal) in an effort to do some creative spinning to give the appearance to the press and the public that Eddie and Gwen are back together, therefore stirring interest in the film. However, Eddie and Gwen spectacularly do not get on anymore, and an abundance of love tension between Eddie and Gwen’s assistant sister Kiki (Julia Roberts) is beginning to surface.

The state of mainstream Hollywood comedy is proving to be very depressing, as America’s Sweethearts is another in the long line of weak comedy efforts to be released this year. The cast is exceptional, and with such lame comedic moments in the film you have to wonder if they signed on to a script in which the director has taken in a completely different direction. Laughs and few and far between, and America’s Sweethearts rarely causes more than a brief smirk. Written by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan, the film, if taken along the riskier road of satire instead of romantic-comedy, could have made some extremely interesting attacks of the publicity mill of Hollywood. Instead, it panders to the widest audience possible, and compromises every shed of originality it ever had. The final sequence, in which we actually see Weidmann’s film, could have been memorable cinema at its best, instead it’s contrived, and becomes merely another segment of a totally forgettable film.

The acting by John Cusack is acceptable, even if he is effectively walking through the film. Cusack seems to alternate between brilliant offbeat efforts such as High Fidelity, Being John Malkovich and Grosse Point Blank to low-brainer, high-paycheck films such as Con-Air and Pushing Tin, and unfortunately, America’s Sweethearts falls into the latter category. Crystal and Roberts, much like Cusack, perform as much as can be required but appear slightly hesitant as if always reassuring themselves that this movie is actually good. Poor Billy Crystal must have cringed at the way director Joe Roth poorly handled his script (but then, this is the director who’s credited with the fine work on Revenge Of The Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise). Only the deluded-in-her-ability Catherine Zeta-Jones seems suited to material of this quality.

America’s Sweethearts is a light-on-the-comedy-brain way of killing an hour and forty-five minutes, and although it is on par with most recent comedies (Except the sequel/remake of American Pie 2 which resorted to repeating last year’s success) it still leaves much to be desired. It wouldn’t have been as bad had the material not been misdirected and compromised and the cast not been so heavyweight.

Raphael Pour-Hashemi

Updated: Oct 18, 2001

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
America’s Sweethearts Review | The Digital Fix