In SWEET HOME ALABAMA, Melanie "Mel" Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon)
would seem to have it all. A rapidly rising star in the New York
fashion design world, she has been dating Andrew (Patrick Dempsey),
the rich and famous Secretary of Housing. His mother (Candice Bergen)
is the brash and politically ambitious mayor of New York. Any movie
with Reese Witherspoon (LEGALLY BLONDE and PLEASANTVILLE) may or may
not have it all, but with her in it, it certainly has more than enough.
She's a charmer who seems incapable of a bad scene.
When it comes time to pop the question, Andrew takes Mel into a big
dark room one night. When the lights come on, she realizes that she
is at Tiffany's, where dozens of sales associates stand at attention,
ready to serve her needs. As the clerks display rows and rows of
big diamond rings in front of Mel, Andrew puts it succinctly, "Pick
one." Ah, to be fabulously wealthy. Mel has truly hit life's jackpot.
There is only this one teeny, tiny problem that needs to be dealt
with back home in Alabama. She is inconveniently still married to
Jake (Josh Lucas), her childhood sweetheart who keeps sending back
their divorce papers unsigned.
The good-spirited comedy does a fine job of showing the classic southern
clichés from trailer trash to plantations for southern belles without
overdoing it. You always feel like you're laughing with the locals
rather than at them. As one of the film's songs puts it, "What This
World Needs Is A Few More Rednecks," and it means it. Jake perhaps
puts it best when he tells Mel, "Just because I talk slow doesn't mean I'm stupid."
As soon as Mel gets back home, she is put off by how poor the living
conditions are, but her heart -- as will yours -- quickly goes out
to Jake's big lovable hound dog. Although I lived in the South for
the first twenty-two years of my life, I never had a chance to savor
the delicacy found in the icebox of Mel's parents -- baloney cake.
I think I'll stick to pecan pie. Her parents are played with warm
humor by veteran supporting actors, Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place.
The plot has Mel trying to trick Jake into throwing her out, but eventually
falling for him again. Her old friends treat her nicely, but, when
she gets drunk, her true feelings for their situations come out, something
that she ends up regretting.
Among the many good lines are the one the mayor uses in her version
of a Yankee putdown of rural southern lifestyles, "Oh, go back to
your double wide and fry something!" Whereas I can't recommend your
trying baloney cake, I have no reservations in recommending you savor
SWEET HOME ALABAMA's simple delights.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA runs 1:42. It is rated PG-13 for "some language/sexual
references" and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 13, found the movie funny and gave it ***. I
liked the way that, although Reese Witherspoon is one of his favorite
actresses, the only characters in the movie that he singled out were
the parents. He commented in addition on how many good lines there were in the movie.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes