America's Sweethearts (2001) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, some crude and sexual humor
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast: Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Hank Azaria
Director: Joe Roth
Screenplay: Billy Crystal, Peter Tolan

Review published August 20, 2001

As good an actress as Julia Roberts may be, she has done about as many bad films as good during the span of her career.  Following what may have been her finest performance in a film to date, ERIN BROCKOVICH, are perhaps two of her worst efforts in years, THE MEXICAN and now AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS.  You can't really fault her for these films' lack of success, but seeing as she could pick and choose any script she wanted to in the world, one wonders why she would pick out two projects as unfunny as these.  I suppose it can be assumed that the draining Oscar-winning performance as Erin might make her want to choose breezy films that required minimal effort on her part, but it certainly does nothing to contradict the rule that minimal effort leads to minimal results.

AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS revolves around Gwen (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie (Cusack), real life sweethearts both on and off the screen that have been a Hollywood cash cow for many a year.  Too bad this do-no-wrong couple has fallen on hard times when Gwen ditches Eddie for her hot Spaniard stud-muffin named Hector, causing Eddie to have a nervous breakdown and Gwen's career to falter.  Gwen and Eddie's latest film has just finished production and is set to be released, but the eccentric director is holding it hostage and won't show it to anyone until it premieres for the press.  The PR guru (Crystal) has been hired to throw a smash gala junket for the press in hopes they may forget, in case there really is no movie made, and wants Gwen and Eddie to appear as if they are good friends instead of hating each others guts. 

Oh yeah, top-billed Julia Roberts plays Gwen's sister Kiki.  I almost forgot that part, since Julia isn't in this film enough to really warrant the top-billing honors bestowed upon her. 

The biggest problem with AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS boils down to this:  it's not funny.  The cast is impressive, the energy robust, but nothing really can be done for a script that has jokes that fizzle time and time again.  It's hard to imagine a script by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan (ANALYZE THIS) being this humorless, so it must be a bit more than that.  The directing by Joe Roth, who hasn't directed in almost eleven years and never really with much success anyway, is uninspiring, considering the talent that dropped in his lap.  If comedy is about timing, there must not have been a watch or clock on the set, because it took almost an hour before I found anything to be even the merest essence of humorous.  Not that the film continued the roll afterward.

Viewers who sit through AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS will probably end up in the same mood as when they started the picture:  in the mood to laugh.  It's a shame that two hours of madcap hijinx can do nothing to sate such hunger, but luckily there's always the video store, where we can rent a similar movie that is actually good, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.  Don't let the all-star cast fool you, SWEETHEARTS is a sweet nothing.

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo