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America's Sweethearts

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: America's Sweethearts

Starring: John Cusack, Julia Roberts
Director: Joe Roth
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: July 2001
Genres: Comedy, Romance

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Is the world ready for a plump Julie Roberts, who appears in flashback with an extra 60 pounds? ("That's a Backstreet Boy," Billy Crystal says of her weight loss. Along with Peter Tolan, Crystal is responsible for AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS' hilarious script.) Roberts, as Kiki, wearing the nerdish glasses that you're still ashamed to have worn in high school, is her sister Gwen's obsequious, personal slave.

An even bigger surprise than the briefly pudgy Roberts is that Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Gwen, turns out to be wonderful at comedy, playing a pampered bitch with great panache and perfect timing. Gwen plays the crowd with great swagger and confidence, but she's hell on wheels when out of the public's view. She sees herself as the center of the known world. "Did we brush our teeth today?" she asks, meaning only herself.

Gwen and Eddie (John Cusack) have the "most celebrated marriage in Hollywood," with nine movies together, six of which have earned more than a hundred million dollars. AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS opens with a hilarious montage of clips from some of their sappy box office hits, including SASHA AND THE OPTOMETRIST, in which Eddie wins Gwen's heart by having her read "I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U" from an eye chart.

But the sad truth is that Gwen and Eddie have broken up after she ran off with a Spanish actor, Hector (Hank Azaria), from their last movie. Hector, the film's silliest character, has a heavy accent. He calls a press junket, a "press hunket," and his favorite expletive is "bull chit!"

Eddie, who has been holed up in a wellness clinic run by a barely recognizable Alan Arkin as a New Age guru, is almost as obsessed with Gwen as she is with herself. "It's so hard being someone people don't get over," Gwen tells Kiki. The truth, even if Gwen won't face it, is that she needs Eddie. Without him, her last two movies bombed.

The story's challenge is a press junket without a movie since Hal (Christopher Walken), the iconoclastic director of Gwen and Eddie's last movie together, won't show anyone the picture until the press junket. The studio exec (Stanley Tucci), who would be happy to have a star commit suicide if it would increase revenue, is livid. He unfires his publicist, Lee (Billy Crystal), so that Lee can wine and dine the press at the most remote site possible while waiting for the film, hopefully, to show up. After ensconcing the press in the Nevada desert, Lee creates quite a commotion among the stars in order to keep the press from realizing that the movie hasn't arrived.

This classic screwball comedy features four actors (Roberts, Zeta-Jones, Cusack and Crystal) performing superbly. Just like the press, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the action in this wonderful blend of physical and written comedy.

The real mystery is whether the film will ever show up, and, if it does, what it will be like. Trust me. You will not be disappointed.

This weekend, it will be America's real sweetheart, Julia Roberts, going up against the dinosaurs. It's hard to see how she won't get trampled in the JURASSIC PARK III juggernaut. Still, one thing is certain, this film is a real crowd pleaser with laughs so big and often that you're going to miss some of the lines. If you're more in the mood for laughs than action, go for AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS. You'll be glad you did.

AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS runs a brisk 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for language, some crude and sexual humor and would be fine for kids around 10 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 12, who laughed long and hard, gave it ****. He said that it is one of the best films that he's seen lately. He said that it had two really good female comedians, but everyone was great. He commented too on how surprised he was that Zeta-Jones could do comedy so well.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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