Judge Jim Thomas once had a storybook romance in a candy factory, but it was in Texas.
Our review of Sweet Home Alabama, published February 4th, 2003, is also available.
Sometimes What You're Looking For…Is Right Where You Left It.
Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde) is about to have it all. She's an up-and-coming fashion designer, her latest New York collection is a smash hit, and her boyfriend Andrew (Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy)—son of the city's mayor (Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown)—just popped the question. So you know the kind of juice Andrew has, they go to Tiffany's after hours to pick out a ring. There's just one teensy little problem: unbeknownst to everyone in New York, Melanie is still married to Jake (Josh Lucas, A Beautiful Mind), her childhood sweetheart. Now Melanie has to travel home to Greenville, Alabama, to convince her first love to sign the divorce papers—and keep anyone from New York from finding out. After years of flying high in New York City, Melanie is back home, with her Civil War buff dad (Fred Ward, Tremors), her mom (Mary Kay Place, The Big Chill), and everything else about the childhood that she left behind. Including, quite possibly, her heart. Touchstone Pictures brings before the court Sweet Home Alabama (Blu-ray) 10th Anniversary Edition.
By all rights, this movie shouldn't work. The script is littered with contrivances, and don't even get me started about the ridiculous southern stereotypes populating Greenville, Alabama; the place might as well be a modern-day Mayberry. That it works at all is due primarily to the cast, who bring a touch of humanity to even the broadest part, and to Reese Witherspoon, whose insane likability is in full force here. Josh Lucas is a winning lead, and he and Witherspoon has great chemistry. The plot plays out pretty much as you expect it to, but that's OK, because everyone sells it. While director Andy Tennant does a poor job of staging the more comedic moments, he's solid at bringing real emotion to the key scenes, so that even clichéd lines and situations seem fresh. With the exception of Candace Bergen's slightly over-the-top turn as the Mayor of New York (and Melanie's prospective mother-in-law), all the characters are likable; Andrew is so likable, in fact, that you feel sorry for him at the end (and there's a nice bit in the extras related to that). When the dust settles, the only thing that really matters about a romantic comedy is the degree to which you care that these two crazy kids get together—and on that score, the movie works just fine.
What doesn't work is the package itself. This disc is called "10th Anniversary Edition"; presumably the marketing team balked over the over the more accurate "The 'Hey, just grab a DVD out of the library and process it, OK?' Edition." They certain didn't spend any time preparing the release, that's for certain. While the AVC-encoded video has good detail and strong color saturation (though back crush is an occasional issue), there is a lot of noise and grain in the picture, frequently bordering on the distracting. Audio is somewhat better; romantic comedies don't generally need a strong track, but the DTS-HD 5.1 track is better than it needs to be, with surprisingly strong punch in the lower register. The only extras are those from the original DVD; fortunately, they're pretty good. In addition to Tennant's commentary track, there's also a set of deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), with introduction and commentary by Tennant. Unlike most deleted scenes, which tend to be disposable, these are all solid scenes.
Annoying mistake that probably only annoyed me: Melanie's father brings in Andrew, saying (more or less) "Look what I found on I-58!" There's only one problem: There's no I-58 in Alabama (There is, however, I-59). What, they couldn't look at a freaking map?
If you already have the movie on DVD, the video issues and lack of new extras make upgrading a marginal proposition—though to be fair, it's got a fairly low price point. If you don't, though, Sweet Home Alabama is an affable romcom despite the clichéd depiction of the South.
Not Guilty, y'all.
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Studio: Touchstone Pictures
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