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AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Walken, Seth Green
Director: Joe Roth
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailers
Length: 103 Minutes
Release Date: November 13, 2001

“You like Eddie, don’t you?”

“I love him.”

“But you leaked the tape.”

“Survival Rule no. 3, kid, you’re not here to love anybody, you’re here to promote a movie, that’s it--period. Say you’re here and you got word that your mother died, got hit by a bus or something. You go downstairs, shed a tear and say…It’s a shame, she would’ve loved this movie.”

Film ***

In the realm of the celebrity fishbowls of society, no other element is more fascinating to most people than celebrity couples. In the wake of such recent high profile break ups such as Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, it’s evident that America’s Sweethearts, a very sharp and savvy comedy about a celebrity couple break up, couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Even one of the stars of the movie, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is at the center of perhaps the most talked about celebrity couple of the moment with her marriage to Michael Douglas, which qualifies the project as somewhat risky on her part. The movie has been sold as a commercial romantic comedy, and even though it does somewhat fade into that convention late in the movie, America’s Sweethearts is indeed a knockout lampoon of the Hollywood spin machine, how it maneuvers, and how many times a day people backstab each other.

As the movie opens, we learn of the success of the movies starring famous on and off screen couple Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) and Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who together made a string of box office hits, such as Autumn With Greg & Peg, Requiem For an Outfielder, and Sasha and the Optometrist. They have now broken up after the filming of their last movie together, which is coincidentally ready for a preview screening. Gwen, who’s suffered two consecutive box office failures since the break up, has now taken in a pathetically self-absorbed Spanish movie super heartthrob (Hank Azaria), while Eddie has suffered a nervous breakdown and has since resided at a wellness clinic.

With Eddie and Gwen’s new movie, Time Over Time, slated to premiere at the upcoming press junket at the request of the film’s visionary director (Christopher Walken), the uptight producer (Stanley Tucci) hastily requests that recently fired publicist Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal) do a PR runaround, for which he will get his job back. He has Lee make a public statement that Eddie and Gwen have reconciled and are very much getting back together, in order to guarantee a sure fire box office hit for the nearly sunk studio. In order to pull this off, Lee enlists the help of Gwen’s publicist sister Kiki (Julia Roberts), to help motivate Gwen to attend the premiere, while Lee convinces Eddie to do the same.

A plot twist develops when Kiki reveals a longtime crush on Eddie, and since Gwen is cruel and calculating, it’s obvious as to how the film will end. What makes America’s Sweethearts soar are the things surrounding it, like the moments where Billy Crystal’s publicist character, who’s basic art of maneuvering is saying one thing, and then doing exactly the opposite, such as in a funny scene where he orders security to destroy a security tape, which he later leak to the press. Another scene-stealer is Christopher Walken, as the genius director who looks more like a Grateful Dead reject. I laughed many times at the scene of the movie premiere, as Walken’s character presents the most truly “honest” film ever made, and I really mean honest.

America’s Sweethearts is as sharp and savvy as a romantic comedy can get, though the movie is more appealing in its aim at the movie business and celebrities. Much credit should go to Crystal, who co-wrote the script, in creating a riotous film taking aim at an industry that many feel warrants the slamming it gets.

Video ****

Yet another fabulously done video job from Columbia Tri Star. Both Widescreen and full screen versions are available on this dual layered disc. The anamorphic presentation is a grand looking one throughout, with colors appearing much natural, and picture quality filled with crisply rendered images. A thoroughly terrific presentation, and one of CTS’ best video jobs of recent memory.

Audio ***

The 5.1 audio mix offered here makes mostly good enough use of rear stage, including in such moments as public scenes, which all sound terrific. The front stage handles the dialogue and music, which sound much good as well. For a simple comedy, this audio job is an impressive one at best.

Features **

A rare letdown in this field, since CTS has made an effort to label many of the titles, including new releases, Special Editions and add a list load of extras in addition. The extras on this disc pale very much in comparison to such recent releases from CTS as Baby Boy and The Animal. Featured on the disc are deleted scenes with director’s introduction, and trailers for this film and two other CTS releases, My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Mask of Zorro.

Summary:

America’s Sweethearts is an entertaining comedy with a terrific ensemble cast of actors that really succeed in making this movie the funny entertainment that it is. Sharply written and savagely hysterical!