Review: Sweet Home Alabama

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

September has been a very disappointing month for movies this year. All movies this month seem to be aimed at a specific segment of the population. Swimfan for the teens, Ballistic for the 18-24 males, The Banger Sisters for the women, and City by the Sea for the men. The industries seem to have forgotten (until today) an important genre that needs to be included in every month’s schedule: the saccharin film. While uncreative and unmemorable, Sweet Home Alabama possess a sweetness that anybody who sees this movie will have a hard time denying.

The fact that anybody will have interest in this film lead Sweet Home Alabama to huge opening: 37.5 million from early estimates! This means that Sweet Home Alabama is now not only the biggest opening for a film in September (beating out the original Ruth Hour), it is also the biggest opening for a romantic comedy, ever. Knocking the hideously awful Runaway Bride from that podium.

Melanie Carmichael is an aspiring fashion designer in NYC who appears to be on the verge of making it big. Her new line debuts well at Fashion Week in New York, and she is dating the Andrew, son of New York’s major. Before we have time to savor the taste of the first handful of popcorn, Andrew is proposing to Melanie. And before Melanie can savor the feeling of engagement, she is on a plane to Alabama. Before she can get married, she needs to divorce Jake, her husband whom she married in high school. While in Alabama, she finds that she “ happy in New York, but [Alabama] fits too...” and must decide between Jake and Andrew.

One could spend all day picking apart Sweet Home Alabama, cliche by cliche. I refuse to do that though. Sweet Home Alabama is extremely uncreative, but it is obvious that this is a model of routine rather than innovation. The irony when I film uses such a cliched yet tried n’ true plot is that it prevents the film from receiving a truly horrible review, yet also prevents it from receiving a truly complimentary review.

Sweet Home Alabama already had one strike against it even before its opening night. The marketing for the film has been a disaster. It started when I first saw the trailer. The trailer features a dog drowning and nobody apparently caring or doing anything. Of course this is resolved during the film, but that is besides the point. The second strike is the TV adds. If I have to hear “...look at you! You have a a bar.” one more time, I think I am going to pull my hair out. The third strike, and final for the marketing department, is the poster. It is lackluster in any pizzazz. Simply look at the top of this page to see what I am talking about.

The acting is simply okay. It is obvious that this role is not a stretch for Reese Witherspoon. In a way, its almost a biography of her real life! That however should not undermine the fact that her performance is witty and convincing. Reese Witherspoon helps a great deal in carrying this ho-hum script passed the line of success. Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsy (who is a dead-ringer for another political figure, JFK Jr.) play the love interests of Melanie, and her simply reactors. I did however enjoy Candace Bergman as the Major. I thought that was a great choice from the casting department. It is obvious right from the get-go that this is simply a vehicle for rising star Reese Witherspoon. Her witty performance helps a great deal in carrying this ho-hum script (just) passed the line of success

The final blow to this unsatisfactory plot is the “too terribly tired for resurrection” classic wedding finale. The ending of Sweet Home Alabama resembles the ending of about a million other romantic comedies. While in the theater, during the ending, I made a game out of trying to remember how many times I had seen this same ending in other motion pictures. The Jennifer Aniston vehicle, Picture Perfect, is one to get you going.

The romance of Sweet Home Alabama is more routine than with some of the other recent rom-coms. We as the audience are forced the rely on what the characters say to each other, because there is no chemistry between Witherspoon and either of her love interests. On the other side of the hyphen, the comedy is sufficient, however, it seems that all the funny lines were used in the previews, and are now way passed funny, and into the irritating zone.

While uncreative and very often cliched and repetitive, Sweet Home Alabama has a charm that is unmistakable. Also unmistakable is the talent of Reese Witherspoon. This is far from her best work, (I am fond of Election myself), but even with such a dull script, she sparkles on the screen. But even the best performance cannot totally save such a uninspiring script. While I do recommend Sweet Home Alabama, I do so with some reservations. You will undoubtedly enjoy Sweet Home Alabama if you choose to see it, however, I am sure you will also agree with my observations about the films various cliches and the monotonous plot.

© 2002 Jake Sproul

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