It takes a lot of work to be “America’s Sweetheart.”
Shirley Temple, Doris Day, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock have all held the title at one time in their careers.
Following a hilarious and endearing performance in Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon attempts to cement her claim to the name with her starring role in Sweet Home Alabama. Relax Reese, you’ve got my vote.
This movie is definitely for the ladies, but features a good dose of redneck and southern humor for some others.
Witherspoon plays fashion designer Melanie Carmichael, who has the world at her high heels.
Her career is taking off , she’s engaged to a once most eligible bachelor, wealthy and handsome Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), who just happens to be the son of New York’s Mayor (Candice Bergen).
But Melanie has one of those wacky movie-style double-lives.
Back in her native Pigeon Hollow, Ala., she is Melanie Smooter, the wayward daughter of a salt-of-the-earth couple, and legally married to Jake (Josh Lucas), her high school sweetheart.
Melanie left Pigeon Hollow for the big city seven years ago, didn’t look back, and didn’t get the divorce papers signed.
Tearing into town in more designer outfits then Elle MacPherson, Melanie is determined to get a divorce from her low-rent husband, and marry her prince charming before the dirt-digging New York press can discover her white-trash roots.
Plenty of laughs result when Melanie encounters her old friends and family, and cultures clash.
Witherspoon has a certain chemistry with both of her romantic leads, and the movie keeps the viewer guessing the “Who will she be with?” question.
Both Dempsey and Lucas create believable as well as likable characters, making it difficult to favor one over the other.
Bergen is superb as Kate Hennings, whose character is an icy cross between Rudy Guilliani and Hilary Clinton.
Jean Smart also does a fairly good turn playing the local honky-tonk owner Stella.
The only flaw, and it’s hardly fatal, is that Witherspoon isn’t given as prominent role as fans might expect.
After watching her in Election, Legally Blonde and Friends, we know she can pull off quirky comedy.
Sadly, the movie’s script never lets her work as hard as she could.
Sweet Home Alabama is a standard romantic comedy, fun and even funny, but not daring.
It’s a southern-style Pretty Woman or down-home version of Miss Congeniality.
Maybe all of Hollywood’s ladies have to produce a romantic comedy in this vein?
Maybe it’s a rite of passage?
Maybe that’s how you get to be “America’s Sweetheart?”
Thankfully, Sweet Home Alabama is fine fare, an excellent distraction, and an enjoyable romp.
Matthew Ray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.