Reese Witherspoon rocked audiences with her Clueless-style performance in Legally Blonde, a movie that went on to make a lot of money and establish Witherspoon as a leading lady. She tested audiences again this year with Sweet Home Alabama and blew away the competition, making over $35 million in its opening weekend. But where some movies deserve the riches, some don't, and Sweet Home Alabama just doesn't cut it.
Barely. Though Sweet Home Alabama has your typical romance comedy formula, it had the potential to be moderately entertaining. Reese Witherspoon proves once again that she is a decent actress, but she needs a decent script to work with. Had the script been wittier, it would have been easy to overlook the clichés; alas, the script is pretty dull, and any potential this movie had went right out the window.
Though it can be said about most romance comedies, Sweet Home Alabama is abundant with cliches, and doesn't know what to do with them. There are plenty of good romance comedies out there, and they set themselves apart not by story but by dialogue; if there are enough individual funny scenes, then they'll be critically successful. If not, then not. Sweet Home Alabama suffers from a lack of invigorating dialogue; we know Witherspoon can pull off comedy, but she isn't given a chance to here.
I will now say that Sweet Home Alabama was not a bad movie, just a boring movie with a really bad ending. It has its moments - granted, a lot of which are in the previews - and some fun characters, but it suffers by trying to throw in a few dramatic scenes that really have no bearing on the film. This is one of those romantic comedies that would do better without ever taking itself too seriously; unfortunately, it tries to, and pays the price.
Most of the faults are minor, but there are a couple that stood out. One, Witherspoon is a bitch through the first half of the movie. My Best Friend's Wedding, starring Julia Roberts, had the same problem. The main character cannot be a bitch. It's probably fun to read on paper, but not fun to watch on screen. When the first dialogue exchanged between Witherspoon and her estranged husband (Josh Lucas) begins with, "Get your stubborn ass down here," I was not amused. It just makes her look like a conceited bitch.
The ending. Oh, how clichéd can romantic comedy endings be? I can live with the fact that audiences want to see the main character follow her heart in the end, and I really don't have a problem with it. But when Witherspoon decides she would rather be with her husband (who conveniently has started making some good money - what does that say about her?) than her fiancee, while walking down the wedding aisle, I got a little fed up. Then, her soon-to-be new husband says, "Okay," and walks off, I had to bite my tongue. No person in their right mind would just accept their bride walking off to be with another man. No one!
Sweet Home Alabama has some fun characters and a few interesting scenes, but there have been far better romantic comedies. When all is said and done, nothing much goes on in the movie, and because of that, I wish I had gone to see something else.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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