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Sweet Home Alabama

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sweet Home Alabama

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen
Director: Andy Tennant
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: September 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Where would you prefer to live? If you're from a big city, is your dream to move to the 'burbs? To a rural town? If you're in a small town now, do you dream of spending your years near Broadway's lights and Zabar's lox? Ambitious young people in the rich countries of the west tend to move from villages to larger areas for more opportunities, while in retirement the warmer climes with fewer expenses seem to beckon. Andy Tennant's "Sweet Home Alabama" centers on a youthful career woman who did indeed takes advantages of an opportunity when she left the husband she married after he made her pregnant, moves to the Big Apple, and lands on magazine covers as a fashion designer ready to take on Calvin Klein. This sentimental story that illustrates the expression, "You can move the girl from the south but you can't move the south from the girl" is about as original as the aphorism, but Reese Witherspoon as the energetic yet vulnerable character provides enough entertainment to justify the homely cliches.

Dubbed "America's Sweetheart" by Disney, Witherspoon performs in the role of Melanie, who has not only wowed the fashion industry with her own show but is courted by the New York's most eligible bachelor, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), who is as handsome and as bland as John F. Kennedy Jr. In one Cinderella scene he gives her a surprise party to die for, meeting her in a darkened Tiffany's jewelry store which lights up to reveal a staff of sales agents ready to sell her any diamond she chooses. Melanie knows this guy for just eight months, and oh, he's also the son of Kate (Candice Bergen), who is New York's mayor, and is considered a future candidate for President.

Do we believe she'd throw over the country's prime catch to return to the guy who once knocked her up (the handsome and manyly Josh Lucas in the role of Jake), showed up drunk at their wedding some seven years earlier, and now lives in a shack in Pigeon Creek, Alabama? Of course we do, because this is a romantic comedy, which means the more two people fight, the more likely they will get together in the very end. While no one in the audience really thinks that Melanie will marry New York's most prominent young man, predictability is not an issue. What counts is that C. Jay Cox's narrative is well constructed and that Andy Tennant has a feel for the two cultures. As the Civil War battle reconstruction punctuates, Pigeon Creek, AL (filmed in Florida) and New York, NY are two different worlds. We get a glimpse of southern rubes, including Melanie's folks (Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place), who turn out to be smarter and bearing more common sense than their city-mouse opposites. The one character who doesn't work, who is an embarrassment given that we're in the 21st Century, is Bobby Ray (Ethan Embry), the town's wide-eyed gay, who makes eyes at a few of the men in his vicinity.

Am I encouraged by this portrayal of southern sincerity to move out of New York? No way. Tuscaloosa's calling, but I'm not going.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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