Sweet Home Alabama

on September 27, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
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Reese Witherspoon is just dazzling. There's no way around that fact. From her days as a child actress in films like 1993's "A Far Off Place" to the resilient ingenues she portrayed in "Freeway" and "Pleasantville" to her extremely engaging performance as the never-say-die, delightfully bright and ebullient Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," she shines. She does not, however, make very good movies. For the most part, Witherspoon tends to comport herself well in films that settle for being not wholly objectionable. "Election" is an exception; "Sweet Home Alabama" is not. This is an insanely mediocre, trite Hollywood-style romantic comedy with nary an unpredictable moment. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie. Which is not to say it's not occasionally funny. Occasionally, but not often.

Still, Reese sparkles. She plays Melanie Carmichael, an up-and-coming New York designer who finds herself engaged to the most eligible bachelor in New York City (a very JFK Jr.-like Patrick Dempsey), son of the nasty mayor (Candice Bergen). But she's already married--to a redneck high-school boyfriend (Josh Lucas) back in 'Bama, from whom she's been separated for some time. To have the fairytale life she wants, she heads back to her roots, where she attempts to acquire a divorce (because, apparently, she's never heard of no-fault and Las Vegas). Instead, she's swept up in a heaping helping of down-home charm, purveyed particularly by old pal Lurlyn (Melanie Lynskey) and her sage father (Fred Ward), who makes a remark about the impossibility of "riding two horses with one butt" that's nearly as funny as it is true. Indeed, there are several fine supporting performances in "Sweet Home Alabama," all in service of a movie that itself serves no purpose, save for accommodating couples on a Saturday night make-out date by leaving plenty of time between laughs. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Candice Bergen, Ethan Embry, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Matkevich and Dakota Fanning. Directed by Andy Tennant. Written by Douglas J. Eboch and C. Jay Cox. Produced by Stokley Chaffin and Neal H. Moritz. A Buena Vista release. Romance/Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references. Running time: 102 mins

Tags: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Candice Bergen, Ethan Embry, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Matkevich, Dakota Fanning, Directed by Andy Tennant, Written by Douglas J. Eboch, C. Jay Cox, Produced by Stokley Chaffin, Neal H. Moritz, A Buena Vista release, Romance/Comedy, mayor, bachelor, delightfully, boyfriend, mediocre
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