by Dane Youssef
"Tired of brainless, star vehicle, rom-com candy-coated Hollywood crap? So am I! And here's why!"
The premise of "America's Sweethearts" sets us up for an inspired, lacerating, in-your-face send-up of Hollywood and silly rom-com star vehicles. Then it turns into one of them. Like a young mind full of bright ideas, originality and vision, it sells out and becomes the very type of evil it was speaking out against.
Although John Cusack isn't as great as he certainly used to be, you could always count on him to sign up for only the highest-caliber projects. But this shows strong signs of a dry spell. I'm guessing the flowing river of scripts sent to him is beginning to run dry.
Ever since Lloyd Dobbler in "Say Anything," Cusack has pretty much been type-casted into playing the same role: The smart, calculated, neurotic and love-sick guy who has just been dumped by the love of his life (Better Off Dead, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity), and seems too smart and adult for his age). Cusack has always seemed so advanced for his age, but now he seems to have grown into his age and now, he's just another routine pedestrian actor.
Now I enjoy Crystal in his movies (although his steady-fire Jewish borscht-belt shtick is wearing thin). And here he does his usual bit here as a fluent veteran cock-and-bull, scam artist, fast-talking PR agent. This is the role Crystal was born to play. And he's been playing it since he was born.
But the movie (which was co-written and co-produced by Crystal) has to make Crystal into a sweetheart. Billy Crystal has always been more of a Borscht-Belt comedian than an actor, which is why he always plays himself in any movie he does, and here he does his usual Oscar-night banter as the PR Lee Phillips who flashes a showbiz smile and orchestrates at lot of routine Hollywood BS and cover-ups.
Catherine Zeta-Jones does a good job doing a stereotype caricature of a rich, spoiled, over-rated, over-egotistical mega-movie-star bitch who's obviously supposed to remind us of Julia Roberts. Reportedly, the Gwen Harrison role was offered to Julia Roberts, but she turned it down out of fear that people would think that was the real Julia Roberts.
Yes, you have to admit--people are very gullible and easily leaden. They need to believe that this unnaturally perfect life exists. Otherwise, what would their escape from the dreary and depressing, soul-and-bone crushing society be? If anyone ever believe Roberts to be a over-egotistical-pumped-up monster like Gwen in this movie.... her fan-base would dry-up and so would her career.
With all the flavor-of-the-month celebrities out there, Roberts is one of the few, precious to have any real staying power. Don't rock the boat, Jules. The only actress I could imagine could pull the villainous heartless Queen-Bee-yotch movie-starlet off as good as Roberts would be Amanda Peet, who's sort of become a staple of weird, bizarre, off-kilter romantic comedies ("The Whole Nine Yards," "Saving Silverman" and "Whipped"). Maybe she would have been better than Zeta-Jones. Perhaps it would have been best to not sign Roberts up, as she seems unbelievable as a wall-flower-turned-blossomed rose.
But there is an entire mainstream religion of mindless moronic lemmings who would leap off a cliff onto jagged rocks down below if anyone like Roberts had a life that was anything but wine and roses... and red-carpet Oscar-night bliss. Christopher Walken can always, always take a nothing movie... and suddenly make it all seem worth-while. And he actually manages to nearly resurrect this thing back from the dead as the Oscar-winning borderline psychotic-director Hal Weidmann (who seems to echo Kubrick).
Seth Green, usually a fiery actor, like everyone else, is completely extinguished here. I remember thinking how much better this damn movie would be if lived up to all to the foreplay. The flick opens brilliantly. We're promised a satirical anti-dote to the brainless, bland, formulaic crapola that Hollywood is dispensing. And they give us more of it. Practically, a love letter to it. We get screwed. We feel more cheated than Eddie.
We're expecting some clever, well-written, merciless biting satire against Hollywood, mindless rom-coms with big-name stars in them, the film critics and journalists, and the fans who watch this garbage... And what do we get? Not an assault on the idiocy, but more of the idiocy itself. A golf ball hitting someone in the head, someone jamming a phone into a chair, a dog sniffing at someone's crotch, a guy falling onto a cactus crotch-first, fat people, etc.
Cheap sit-com crap you can see on the ABC Wedensday night family line-up or on any other sitcom on regular network television anytime. I kept asking myself: How could such talented people with such an inspired, brilliant premise be so bad... and boring? I went to "box office & business" on IMDb and got my answer: The film's budget was an estimated $48,000,000. It grossed a whopping $93,607,673, and that's just in the US. Is it just me, or is everyone is this cast wearing a leather jacket? Actually, Zeta-Jones wears leather pants in one scene and so does Billy. Was there some kind of dress code on the set? How many cows were slain for this? How much time, talent and resource was wasted?
SPECIAL NOTE: This death-threat of a review has more interesting writing than anything that occurred in "America's Sweethearts."
--Hating Stupid Scripted Hollywood On-Screen Romances, Dane Youssef