“America’s Sweethearts” is the latest film directed by Joe Roth. Roth directed a few mediocre films (among them ‘Coupe de Vile’) and then started his own film production company. For a few years, he was the head of Disney Studios and now he has started another production company called “Revolution Studios”. His new company has attracted a lot of top-name talent. Roth, for some reason, decided to direct this film based on a screenplay by Crystal and Peter Tolan. They also wrote “Analyze This”. The film has a lot of good-sounding things going for it. Great cast (for the most part). Great premise. Promising screenwriters. But why does it feel like a cheap television movie? I have to place most of the blame for this on Roth’s shoulders. The direction is so bland it just reeks of television movie of the week. Nothing inspires the viewer.
Another element of this television mow syndrome is the music. Music is played over everything. Many pop songs are played over parts of scenes, into the beginning of the next scene. Usually music is included in a film to cue the audience’s emotions, but if a song is playing over two scenes, how is that supposed to work?
The story leads up to a screening of the last film Eddie and Gwen made. The director (Christopher Walken) has ideas of his own and shows a film that he created. The film is not funny. The buildup leads to nothing, creating an extremely unfunny climax.
Julia Roberts is obviously the star of the film and her role is pleasant, but not great. As Kiki, she plays her sister’s handmaiden. In a few brief flashbacks, we see Kiki as an overweight woman. These scenes had the promise of delivering something that Julia’s fans could remember, but they are all too brief. Julia is a mega-star and can’t spend a lot of screen time in a fat suit. Her relationship with John Cusack is slightly interesting to watch, but I never got the feeling that they were madly in love. Shouldn’t they have been madly in love? It is a romance after all.
Billy Crystal has a few funny lines, but they have the feel of ancient history to them. Even the most novice person has some knowledge of how the studios and Hollywood work. The jokes had little originality to them.
Catherine Zeta- Jones is just awful. Every single line sounds like it is simply being spoken by Catherine Zeta- Jones. The only time she even appears to be attempting a character is when Gwen is acting especially shallow or callous. Gwen is an unlikable person, but Zeta- Jones doesn’t take this to a new level. We have seen this character a million times before and with more interesting results.
John Cusack plays Eddie Thomas. Eddie is a confused man and this makes his character more interesting, but I just didn’t believe that he was ever in love with either Gwen or Kiki. John Cusack is capable of such better work.
Christopher Walken, Stanley Tucci, Seth Green and Alan Arkin pop up for various cameos, and these generate a few chuckles, but overall, they are completely forgotten by the time the film ends.
“America’s Sweethearts” is a film that is so calculated that it makes me uneasy. The subject matter is meant to be cute, to appeal to as many people as possible. For this reason, they have to shy away from anything resembling reality in the relationships. People in Peoria might object if Julia Roberts looks fat, or if they actually have a fight with some substance, or if anything appeared to have an ‘edge’ to it.
“America’s Sweethearts” is best viewed on Fox, when it appears during the Spring of 2002. This way, you can view the film in the medium best suited for it, as a television movie of the week.