“America’s Sweethearts”

MOVIE REVIEW: “America’s Sweethearts” stars Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally…, Here Today [2021]), John Cusack (Love & Mercy, 1408), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Erin Brockovich), Catherine Zeta-Jones (The Mask of Zorro, Entrapment), Hank Azaria (The Simpsons [TV series], The Birdcage), Stanley Tucci (Easy A, The Hunger Games), Seth Green (The Italian Job [2003], Robot Chicken [TV series]), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine, Glengarry Glen Ross), and Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can, Seven Psychopaths). It is directed by Joe Roth (Christmas with the Kranks, Coupe de Ville), with the screenplay being written by Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan (Rescue Me [TV series], The Larry Sanders Show [TV series]).

Lee Phillips (Crystal), a movie publicist, must pull off the impossible when he is tasked with promoting an unfinished film starring former American sweethearts Eddie Thomas (Cusack) and Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones) who are now getting a divorce.

It’s always a treat to watch a movie on the industry I work in. Especially when it’s a comedy. And “America’s Sweethearts” explores a fun side to this whacky corporation we are entertained by.

Most of us should know about tabloid culture. Sometimes the drama that’s spun in celebrities’ lives are far more engaging than the films they star in. With “America’s Sweethearts,” we explore the dynamic of an on and off-screen couple who are adored by the public because of their chemistry in their movies and the fact that they are married in real life. Well… at least, when they were once married. John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones portray Hollywood stars Eddie Thomas and Gwen Harrison, once star-crossed lovers who are now getting a divorced. And when their final film together is set to premiere, a publicist (played by Billy Crystal) is brought on to kick up the hype by making the world believe Thomas and Harrison are getting back together. Oh, if things were just that simple.

Having come off of seeing “They Came Together” when I sat down to watch this (yeah, I’m late on posting this review), I was a bit exhausted on Hollywood humor. You know, the comedy that pokes fun at the industry and certain story tropes. “America’s Sweethearts” tackles the crooked side of Hollywood with ease, even if some of the jokes were low-hanging fruit. Crystal spear-headed the project masterfully (I am on some sort of Crystal kick these days, and I’m not talking about drugs) and the star power that surrounded him is nothing short of legendary. Everyone who was big at the time came out of the woodwork for this comedy vehicle. Even my main man Christopher Walken, who played arguable the best role of the entire film as the director who didn’t have a cut ready for the pre-screening. His kookiness shined and I wish he wasn’t just a bit part.

The parts that make up this narrative are quite fun, regardless if the jokes land or not (which they do for the most part). However, the structure is quite familiar. At this point in my film studies, I don’t want to harp on predictability… but the formula “America’s Sweethearts” is using is rather noticeable. The lead characters are doomed from the start, with Zeta-Jones’ role being irredeemable (quite a caricature, but she plays it off well); that leaves us with the true romance of this tale, which doesn’t really do much to leave us wondering. I get it, this is easy-watching cinema. I appreciate it when I am in the mood. I guess what I wanted was a little more stakes, or a more complex role for Zeta-Jones that would make it more difficult of a choice for Cusack to choose. But, that’s the name of the game in comedies like these; the set-ups and punch lines are far more important.

If you are associated with the film industry, you will get a kick out of this one. For being made in 2001, it still holds up as evilness within Hollywood stands the test of time. There are memorable jokes that work, and the stars that fill the leads are wonderful. It’s nothing too remarkable to share with everyone you know, but for someone who works in this field, it’s a cool thing to share with those who are like-minded/worked(?). If you are looking for something light and fun, this is a good pick. FINAL SCORE: 76%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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