They're looking for a few good men.
I guess you could say that Cameron Diaz is America's sweetheart when it comes to goofy or gross-out comedy. After appearing alongside Jim Carrey in The Mask and then rubbing seaman in her hair in There's Something About Mary, Diaz has reigned at the box office with her stunning good looks and klutz-like sense of humor. And who better to share the screen with Diaz than Married With Children sexpot Christina Applegate? And so goes the comedy The Sweetest Thing, also starring Selma Blair (Legally Blonde), Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea), and Jason (!) Bateman (Teen Wolf Too). The Sweetest Thing is now on DVD care of Columbia TriStar.
Facts of the Case
Christina Walters (Diaz) and her two best friends/roommates Jane (Blair) and Courtney (Applegate) are free wheelin', single life lovin' women who enjoy frequenting posh bars and sleeping with all kinds of guys. One night Christina happens to run into Peter (Jane), a cute guy who she playfully tries to pass on to her friend Jane. After some sparring, Christina and Peter start to get along and find that they are both equally attracted to each other. Peter is in town for his brother's (Bateman) wedding and quickly scoots out of the bar, leaving Christina to wonder if he was really Mr. Right. The next morning Christina tries to get a hold of Peter at his hotel room but finds he's already checked out and left for the wedding (what she doesn't know—and this will come to no surprise to those who have seen more than two movies in their lifetime—is that it's really Peter's wedding)! Grabbing Courtney, the two girls make haste for the impending nuptials so Christina can tell Peter how she really feels about him. Along the way the girls will encounter a number of wacky situations, including being attacked by an aluminum foil bird, wearing the ugliest wedding dresses this side of Minnie Pearl, and finding out that a semen stain is a pretty tough order for an established dry cleaning company!
It's often amazing to me that comedy can walk such a thin line, and tilting it just one way or another will create either the desired response or a complete dismal failure. Take a wild guess which way The Sweetest Thing ended up leaning? Here's a hint—it wasn't very funny. I can't read minds, but here is what I'm betting the pitch meeting sounded like for this move:
The Pitch Guy: "What we've got is a nutty comedy that stars Cameron Diaz! She was great in There's Something About Mary, and this movie's…well, kinda like that movie! There are a lot of jizz jokes, some great boob gags, and even a hysterical scene where a girl gets her tonsils caught on a guy's penis piercing! Is that funny or WHAT!?!?"
So what did the filmmakers end up producing? A movie that is equal parts There's Something About Mary, American Pie 2, and every other Farreley brother's film ever made. The only difference is that The Sweetest Thing fails on almost every level of comedy it shoots for. The makers of this film didn't remember that a key to comedy is that gross gags are not funny in a void—they must be entwined inside a funny situation to make them entertaining. You can have a guy licking sperm off of a woman's dress until the cows come home and it just isn't funny if it's floating on its own. While The Sweetest Thing has a scene like this in context, the context just isn't thick enough to sustain the joke. And that's not the only example I can come up with. Peeing, pooping, farting…there are numerous jokes here that just don't work. Not only did the jokes not work, but they also don't make sense; as Roger Ebert pointed out about the oral sex penis piercing joke, "You simply cannot (I am pretty sure about this) get stuck in the way the movie suggests—no, not even if you've got piercings." After taking a moment to think this over, I wholeheartedly agree.
However, I feel for Diaz, Applegate, and Blair. I will be the first to admit that I like all three actresses. Christina Applegate is not only sexy but funny. Blair has a snotty charm and she's able to get some good mileage out of a few of the jokes. While I'm not Diaz's biggest fan, I also think that with the right material she's able to deliver a gag with gusto. This is not the right material. I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but who cares about a batch of girls who sleep around and play games with guy's heads? [Editor's Note: Patrick forgets that Sex and the City uses the same girls-sleeping-around formula, sans gross-out gags, and is quite popular.]
And who'd have thought that the stiff Thomas Jane could actually find his funny bone? While he's no Don Knotts, the guy actually comes off as having a likable personality (unlike his wooden performance in the shark-eat-man thriller Deep Blue Sea). For you '80s fans out there you'll be happy to know that Jason Bateman is still alive and kicking! His role as Peter's brother isn't anything to write home about, but at least we know he's not begging for spare change on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.
There's not much else left to say about The Sweetest Thing except that the name certainly doesn't describe the film. The plot is thin, the characters either bland or unlikable, and the ending contrived and dull. Let's hope that everyone involved in this flick makes a better career decision the next time around.
The Sweetest Thing is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I don't have a whole lot to say about this transfer except that it works pretty well. The colors and black levels all look fairly solid and even while only the slightest amount of compression sneaked into the transfer. The Sweetest Thing's transfer isn't going down in history as reference quality, but it looks just fine from my vantage point (which would be in front of my TV).
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the transfer this soundtrack, is very apt for the film it supports. Directional effects are not abundant though they do pop up from time to time. The biggest surround use is during the club scenes when there is music playing—sometimes far too loudly. Otherwise this is a warm mix that sports no hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in French as well as English and French subtitles.
Once again a studio has decided to tack on a good load of extra features onto a movie that wasn't well received either critically or financially. The Sweetest Thing is no exception. Starting off this disc is a commentary by director Roger Kumble, cast members Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate, writer Nancy M. Pimental, and others. This track features not one iota of important production information on the making of the film. What it does include is everyone goofing around, making farting noises, answering cell phones, and just acting plain nuts. I hence to say that this was almost more enjoyable than the film…which isn't saying much.
Next up are two separate featurettes: "A Day in the Life of Nancy Pimental" and "Politically Erect." The first about Nancy Pimental (who eagle eyes viewers will recognize as Ben Stein's co-host on Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money) features Pimental and some her friends chatting about the screenplay and how much it's like their lives. Yawn. The second featurette is your basic promo sporting talking heads and clips from the movie. Believe it or not, the director actually refers to his cast (which, remember, includes Jason Bateman) as "the murderer's row of comedy." Um…right, whatever you say, Mr. Kumble.
Finally there are two storyboard comparison sequences, some filmographies on the principle cast and crew members, and theatrical trailers for various Columbia TriStar movies.
The Sweetest Thing feels like a retread of every other gross out comedy on the market today. Will there ever be a time when we aren't ALWAYS subjected to flatulence jokes in almost every comedy produced in Hollywood? My crystal ball says it's nowhere in the near future…
As for the disc, Columbia has done a very nice job on all aspects of video, audio and supplemental section. Now if only they'd have done as good a job on 976-EVIL…
The Sweetest Thing is found guilty of one to many poop gags. Case dismissed!
FYI: There is also an "un-rated" version of this film available on DVD. Big fat woop-dee-do.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Filmmakers' Commentary
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.