America's Sweethearts (2001)

Directed by Joe Roth
Written by Billy Crystal & Peter Tolan
Starring Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Hank Azaria

My Advice: Matinee.

Eddie Thomas and Gwen Harrison (Cusack and Zeta-Jones) are today's answer (albeit a damn cheesy answer) to Grant and Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall--you name the couple you love to see on-screen together, that's them. They were an off-screen couple as well, and a staggering success. But there's a snag, you see. The terminally vapid Gwen has run off with a Spanish guy named Hector (a hilarious Azaria), leaving Eddie in a "center" trying to get his mental stability back, and rendering both their careers nearly null and void. The further snag is that their last movie together, Time Over Time, is AWOL, being held hostage by the crazed loner director (Christopher Walken). The studio needs a hit, but done with two stars who hate each other and a film that may or may not exist. Thank God for Lee Phillips (Crystal), the best press handler in the known universe. However, surviving the experience might be something even he can't handle.

Upfront, let me tell you the bottom line: the movie is cute and it's enjoyable. But better than that, it's produced and co-written and starring Billy Crystal, the savior of many an Oscar telecast. It's refreshing to see a comedic actor who know...comedic, even as time goes by. His handprints are all over this thing and that's a huge plus. But still, it probably won't blow you away, even with the considerable star power in its arsenal. But still, it's a great ensemble comedy, with all manner of that aforementioned star power serving their part for the greater good of the film. Even perpetual leading lady Julia Roberts, who hasn't been amongst an ensemble since 1996's Everyone Says I Love You, is able to fit right in and keep this from becoming A Julia Roberts Movie(TM). It's just a nice change of pace.

The standouts amongst the cast, besides the doberman that molests Crystal, are the smaller roles. Stanley Tucci is perfect as the money-grubbing head of the studio. The aforementioned Azaria might be completely over the top and silly beyond belief, but hey, who cares? It works. Chris Walken--I'll have some of what he's having, please. The guy is having way too much fun with small roles in everything from Sleepy Hollow (where he grunted a lot and looked scary/ier) to Fatboy Slim's video for "Weapon of Choice" (where he dances around an abandoned hotel lobby and then starts flying around it). Here he's sporting way too much hair and sending up whacked out directors perfectly. And lastly, Alan Arkin is hilarious playing a wellness guru that Eddie turns to when times get rough.

If you go in expecting it to be anything other than what it is, light comedy, you'll probably leave disappointed. But if you're needing that kind of thing, then by all means spend the extra dough and see it on the big screen.

Buy it on DVD from Amazon!
Buy the soundtrack from Amazon!

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