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America's Sweethearts

Starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, JohnCusack, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Walken, Seth Green
Screenplay by Billy Crystal & Peter Tolan
Directed by Joe Roth
website: www.spe.sony.com

IN SHORT: Delightful. [Rated PG-13 for language and some crude and sexual humor. 100 minutes]

A sure sign that a movie studio has no faith in its product is best demonstrated in the television advertising campaign for America's sweetheart. We've seen five different spots in the week prior to opening, all of 'em could be about a different movie and all of 'em, essentially, give away almost every appealing situation in the movie. Since most couples looking for a less painful dateflick to keep 'em busy for a weekend evening keep their eyes glued to the little screen, what is the point of ruining what small gems are in the movie?

They were, perhaps, the best known screen couple since Tom and Nicole or Julia and Benjamin but, like those aforementioned couples, Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) are kaput. Finito. Claws out, teeth bared, end of the line, over. No more $100 million plus box office grossing tear jerkering, life affirming, cheer on the way out flicks like Requiem for an Outfielder or Autumn for Gray and Peg. But you don't know Gwen and Eddie are in the dumpster and, as they come together one last time to promote their final fling, Time Over Time, it is the job of Gwen's sister, and slave-assistant Kiki (Julia Roberts) to keep the press from finding out. To be a bit more specific, its been eighteen months since our loving couple parted ways -- Gwen into the arms of a hot blooded Castilian lover (Hank Azaria) with an accent so thick some anti-defamation group is going to have a field day and Eddie to fester in a state of jealously and loneliness.

Were it any other actor playing Kiki, in Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan's script, we'd be raving about how funny Zeta-Jones is. We'll do that later on. Right now we'll rave about how Roberts takes a character that is usually fodder for newcomers to cut their teeth on, and steals the show from everybody else on screen. In that America's Sweetheart is the second movie Julia has done that has movie press junkets as part of its story (Notting Hill was her first) we're wondering if she hasn't stumbled onto something. Then again, we wonder if the jokes are all the more funny since we've done the press junket rigmarole and know the living hell they inflict on actors and press alike.

Junkets, as easily explained in this movie, are weekend long events where a couple of hundred journalists are flown into a city, ensconced in a luxury hotel given expensive gifts (sometimes) and a first look at a potential blockbuster. For the actors, it means sitting and answering the exact same questions a couple of hundred times in a row, and needing to make each answer sound like the very firs time. Junkets are hell for actors. For the press, unless the movie and/or presents are really good, they're a helluva schlep. In the case of Time Over Time, the eccentric director (Christopher Walken) hasn't even provided a cut of the film to show the press prior to the interviews. All the elements of a frantic comedy are in place and every body is doing their best to cover their butts. Essentially, lie through your teeth and try to ignore the fact that Cusack's character has suddenly taken notice of Robert's character, since she's dropped sixty pounds in the intervening months.

That, of course, means that the budding romance between Cusack and Roberts takes the show. It's all Billy Crystal can do to try and make the lesser characters as outrageous as possible, which includes the writer/actor taking a small part as the studio's press agent and on-set pseudo-psychotherapist to the insecure Kiki. The big surprise in the cast is Zeta-Jones, whose character is so egocentric that she could make everyone's life a living hell -- actually, she does but Z-J manages to get great laughs every time she turns every crisis for ever other character into something about her. It's a great gig.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to America's Sweetheart, he would have paid . . .

$4.00

It's a dateflick though with lesser actors this could've been done for a television movie.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.