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Case Number 01495

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America's Sweethearts

Sony // 2001 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 5th, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

A comedy about celebrity, family, and other forms of insanity.

Opening Statement

One of America's favorite pastimes (aside of baseball) is watching the rich and famous' every move. Let's face it, we all like to see a rags to riches story. But what we REALLY love is to watch celebrities crash and burn like the Hindenberg. Pee-Wee Herman, Tonya Harding, O.J. Simpson…many of us thrive on watching the fuselage of a doomed career. Taking a new spin on this tale is director Joe Roth's (Coupe De Ville) romantic comedy America's Sweethearts starring Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), John Cusack (High Fidelity), Billy Crystal (Analyze This), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Mask of Zorro) and Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction). Columbia TriStar sweeps us off our feet with the release of America's Sweethearts on DVD.

Facts of the Case

They were two of America's favorite movies stars, and as a couple they were adored by the world over. Starring in a batch of successful films together, Gwen (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie were great together but are now kaput both on-screen and off. Gwen's shacked up with a Spaniard named Hector (Hank Azaria, a seeming reprisal of his role from The Birdcage) and Eddie has been in a mental hospital trying to work through his loss and anger over their break-up (while still having a "thing" for Gwen).

When Eddie and Gwen's final film is ready for distribution (directed by a wacky looking Christopher Walken), press agent Lee (Crystal) is asked by the studio head (Stanley Tucci, The Imposters) to set up a press junket with the two mega-stars—even though they are at each other's throats. Finagling both Eddie and Gwen, as well as Gwen's attractive sister/assistant Kiki (Roberts), Lee is able to throw a press conference to show that there is a possibility that Gwen and Eddie might reconcile (for that will bring in bigger box office numbers and save Lee from losing his job). Things start to get complicated when Eddie realizes that his true love may not be Gwen at all…but the meek and cute Kiki.

Hollywood may never be the same again when love blooms between the stars!

The Evidence

I've heard a lot of negative things about America's Sweethearts since its theatrical release. From talking with friends and reading reviews, you'd have thought America's Sweethearts might be on the same plane as The Postman or Battlefield Earth.

Hold on…once again I apologize for comparing a film to Battlefield Earth. No movie deserves that kind of abuse or punishment.

Anyhow, as I plopped down to watch America's Sweethearts I wasn't expecting much—and was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed this film. I will admit to being a Hollywood junkie. I love the morsels of gossip that float around the tabloids, newspapers, and periodicals. It's like being able to peek into someone else's life without being caught. America's Sweethearts is a lot like that feeling. Yes, to sum it all up: I am a pervert. In the span of about an hour and a half you get to watch typical Hollywood folks act like typical Hollywood folks. Backstabbing, deception, fake smiles, and lots of romantic no-no's—it's all hear for your unbridled pleasure.

The screenplay for America's Sweethearts was written by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan (who also collaborated together on Analyze This) and shows much promise in its premise. While the film doesn't always hit its target, some of the lines and moments in the film are very funny. A scene involving John Cusack's character being mistaken as a peeping masturbator was especially humorous. While I enjoyedAmerica's Sweethearts, there were some problems I encountered, the biggest being that the script never takes larger chances with its laughs. Crystal is a funny guy (and Tolan has written funny films, such as My Fellow Americans) but they seem to be holding back when it comes to one-liners and funny situations. America's Sweethearts is rated PG-13 and often feels like it was trimmed to make sure it didn't receive an R rating.

The cast of America's Sweethearts is an able-bodied one, headed by Cusack and Zeta-Jones as the sparring Hollywood couple. Cusack is playing a character we've all come to know and love, an angst-ridden guy who can't seem to figure out his life. Zeta-Jones is bitchy and cute as Gwen, what I assume is a typical of a Hollywood starlet concerned only for herself. Crystal plays the usual Crystal character, always pleading and joking with the stars around him to play nice so he will look good. The rest of the cast is fine (Julia Roberts plays a basic Julia Roberts role), the only real standout being Hank Azaria as Hector, a Spanish-speaking brute who walks around calling Eddie "pussy boy."

I think that expectations were really riding high when this film was released, especially considering the amount of talent that was featured in the movie. While America's Sweethearts is not a great film, I thought it had some funny insights about Hollywood, actors, and how we all fall apart when love comes crashing down, no matter how rich and famous we are.

America's Sweethearts is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, as well as a full frame version. Columbia has done a very nice job on this transfer, making sure that all aspects of the colors, black levels and flesh tones are even and bright. No grain or dirt was spotted at any time, and only the slightest amount of edge enhancement was seen from time to time. Overall this is a very nice looking print.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in French and English, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track in English. The Dolby 5.1 track is well mixed though very subdued (as is often the case with 5.1 tracks for comedies). Though all aspects of the music, effects and dialogue were clear, the track sounded very quite when it came to directional sounds (kicking in usually when background music was playing). Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.

Columbia has included only a scant few extra features on this edition of America's Sweethearts, including five separate deleted scenes with optional director introductions/commentary on each scene. While these scenes are nice to watch, it was obvious why most of them were cut from the film. Director Joe Roth's commentary on each is a bonus, letting us know his reasons for the edits (and proving my theory that this movie had to have a PG-13 cut, as Roth states in one introduction).

Also included on this disc are theatrical trailers for the films America's Sweethearts, My Best Friend's Wedding and The Mask Of Zorro, plus some scant production notes and filmographies on the principle players in the film.

Closing Statement

America's Sweethearts is a pretty good movie. If you haven't seen it yet, I think it's worth at least a rental on a date night with your sweetie. All the key players are funny (with a bonus of seeing a flaky Alan Arkin with long hair), and while it's not Oscar material, the script includes some laugh-inducing moments. Columbia has done a fair job on this disc, though well-produced supplements are sorely lacking.

The Verdict

America's Sweethearts is free to go, as is Columbia. Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 87
Extras: 65
Acting: 84
Story: 82
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailers
• Filmographies
• Production Notes
• Deleted Scenes with Director's Commentary Introductions

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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