Review: ‘America’s Sweethearts’

Here’s a satire of the film industry disguised as a romance that’s not- so- secretly another Julia Roberts vehicle. Now, if we could just get Julia Roberts out of that equation… yeah, we’re biased.

D.K. Studios has a problem: it hasn’t produced a hit movie in over two years and is about to go under. Taking a chance on an award-winning yet reclusive director (Christopher Walken), the studio has sunk $86 million into making a film called “Time Over Time” and ensured that it starred top box-office draws Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack). On screen and off, Gwen and Eddie have been Hollywood’s dream couple, dubbed ‘America’s Sweethearts,’ right up until Gwen left Eddie for Hector (Hank Azaria). Sensing disaster, the studio head (Stanley Tucci) enlists a publicist (Billy Crystal) to get the ‘Sweethearts’ back together and promote his movie, and the publist in turn calls on Gwen’s sister Kiki (Julia Roberts) to help him out. And there is one last problem: the reclusive director hasn’t delivered the film and refuses to show it except in front of the press… if the director himself or the missing film even shows up at all.

According to various sources, the part of the over-pampered Gwen character was originally offered to Julia Roberts. Instead of accepting, Roberts asked for Kiki instead, which was said to have prompted a re-write (since studio executives intend to take full advantage of Julia Robert’s ‘talents’ as the feisty, misunderstood romantic that always gets her man in the end.) Result: whatever the original story and ending were, you just know that those have been buried under Robert’s vehicular hype (or man-slaughter, if you will.) In addition, the part of Eddie was supposed to be played by Billy Crystal, so the effort to get “America’s Sweethearts” made sounds as if it was as manipulated as how the fictional film in the movie was promoted. Life imitating art, or vice versa?

Fortunately, there’s still enough of everything else to keep the film entertaining. The cutthroat antics and manipulations of Crystal’s publicist to fool the press, the actors, and everyone else into making “Time Over Time” a hit is as both eye-opening as it is entertaining. Standouts: Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Gwen so well that one has to wonder how much acting is really involved, while Hank Azaria milks his role as Hector to entertainingly upstage everyone as often as possible. Everyone else turns in their expected preformances, but what makes this film work is BECAUSE they do exactly that, lending credibility to a spoof that probably isn’t too far removed from its Hollywood inspiration. The only miscast is Seth Green who, as Crystal’s assistant, is wasted as the target for most of Crystal’s one-liners (although being in a film with all these names can’t hurt, right?)

Targeted for moviegoers not interested in seeing dinosaurs eating people (and Julia Roberts fans), “America’s Sweethearts” is a light-hearted bit of fluff that fills its nich nicely and will probably make more than a few bucks. For our money, if you just HAVE to see Julia Roberts in a film, “The Mexican” was by far a better film all-around and a glimpse of her ability when not typecast in her usual fare.

(A three- skull film with a half- skull off for yet another Julia Roberts stereotype)

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