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SWEET HOME ALABAMA

Review by Ruth E. Ferguson

Stars:  Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen, Fred Ward, Jean Smart, Josh Lucas, Mary Kay Place, and Patrick Dempsey
Director:  Andy Tennant
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 – English, Dolby Digital 5.1 – French
Features:  8 Deleted Scenes w/intro by Director, Alternate Ending, Audio Commentary by Andy Tennant – Director, Trailers, Music Video - 1. SHeDAISY - "Mine All Mine", Scene Access, Interactive Menus
Length:  109 Minutes
Release Date:  February 4, 2003

Film **1/2

Melanie Campbell (Witherspoon) fled her Southern roots seven years ago for the Big Apple and the fashion design world.  She left behind her Mom (Place), Dad (Ward) and oh yeah, her husband Jake (Lucas).  In New York she not only develops a successful career as a designer, but also receives a wedding proposal from the Mayor’s son, Andrew (Dempsey) in the famed Tiffany’s department store.  But before she can run off and live happily ever after, she must handle one pesky detail – her divorce from Jake.

So Melanie returns home, a place that even she admits is so foreign to her now, that it should require a passport to visit.  It does not take long for Melanie to ruffle feathers with her snooty ways and strange clothes.  And they are not slow to remind her of her infamous past in the town, with escapades that include a certain incident with a poor cat. 

At times Melanie can appear rather mean-spirited; something that did not happen in Reese’s breakout hit of 2001, Legally Blonde, and this can cause you to not warm up to her as much this time out.  In fact, the more interesting characters are her love interests.  Jake and Andrew not only look very good, but their characters are such nice guys you feel like Melanie has the prime example of a win-win situation.  By the way, it is no coincidence that Andrew reminds you of JFK, Jr.  In a smaller role, Bergen plays his mother and mayor of New York, she is very good Murphy Brown form with a very sarcastic tongue.

Lucas has been in several films, but never before in a sexy leading man role, but you should recognize him from Beautiful Mind and The Deep End.  Hopefully, Lucas will have more opportunities to star as a sexy hunk.  2002 saw a moderate comeback for Dempsey, who also appeared in Emperor’s Club.  In both he was charming and funny, maybe 2003 will see more roles for him as well.

Video  **1/2

The transfer is rather good, not outstanding, but it highlights the wonderful scenery well with a rich color palette.  Only visual disappointment is the opening menu, fairly bland and similar to the cover.

Audio **1/2

Sweet Home Alabama comes in Dolby Digital 5.1, again nothing particularly special but no detractions either.  The music soundtrack is pleasant, including the SHeDAISY "Mine All Mine" music video..  A dubbed French language track is included, also in Dolby Digital 5.1.

Features ***  

The extras on the disc include eight deleted scenes with an introduction of each by director Andy Tennant explaining why they were eliminated.  Several of the cut scenes featured a character that flirted with Andrew in Melanie’s absence from New York.  The focus groups that saw the early screenings felt it took away from the charm of Andrew because they were convinced he cheated on Melanie. 

Also included is the alternate ending for the film, which Tennant introduces and then returns following the clip to provide more explanation on why it was rightfully cut.  In addition, Tennant can be heard on the audio commentary track.  He points out interesting details such as how all the clouds in the opening and closing scene is completely CGI and some parts of the closing scene were not even filmed in the same city.  The production locations included Florida, Atlanta and New York City.

Summary:

Sweet Home Alabama is available for rental or purchase on February 4, 2003.  Witherspoon fans should be pleasantly surprised to discover Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsey, who certainly make this a good film to rent.