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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
America's Sweethearts (2001)

Gwen: Does everyone hate me, Kiki?
Kiki: No one hates you.
Gwen: Oh yes, they do. I was in a store the other day, you know that great store on Melrose? And there was a baby in a stroller, and he was looking up at me, and he was judging me.

- Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: November 13, 2001

Stars: Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Other Stars: Billy Crystal, Seth Green, Christopher Walken, Hank Azaria
Director: Joe Roth

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, some crude, and sexual humor
Run Time: 01h:43m:10s
Release Date: November 13, 2001
UPC: 043396063938
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-B-B- C

DVD Review

After leaving Disney to form his own production company, Revolution Studios, Joe Roth felt, for the first time in 10 years, the desire to direct a movie. He hadn't done so since 1990's Coupe de Ville (and, before that, 1987's Revenge of the Nerds II). The script he chose for his comeback was America's Sweethearts, one of the most heavily hyped movies of 2001. Unfortunately for Roth, he chose poorly. Even with a star studded cast (somehow, Roth was able to attract the likes of Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, and Seth Green, along with Billy Crystal, who co-wrote), America's Sweethearts is a bit of a mixed bag: sporadically entertaining, but with serious structural problems, a weak ending, and a rather bland leading lady.

Gwen (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie (Cusack) were the most popular duo in America, both on and off screen. But when their marriage breaks up, both of their careers begin to falter—America only likes them together. Their last movie, from the eccentric director Hal Weidmann (Walken) is their last shot at success, but, ever the eccentric auteur, he has locked himself in a shack on his estate to finish the editing in isolation. With no film to show the press, PR agent Lee Phillips (Crystal) must keep attention focused on the possible reconciliation of the famous couple, as everyone from the studio head (Stanley Tucci) on down waits to see what the final Gwen and Eddie film will be like. To keep Eddie and Gwen talking, Lee enlists the help of Gwen's assistant/sister Kiki (Roberts), who harbors repressed affection for Eddie. Cue Hollywood ending.

There are some bright spots in the script, which borrows more than a few pages from Singing in the Rain, and it's at its best when satirizing the junket phenomenon, where the movie is second only to the free gifts and gossip. There's some sharp dialogue and several gentle jabs at Crystal himself, as well as at the Hollywood star system in general. But otherwise, this is the standard romantic comedy plot. It's full of blatantly stupid misunderstandings, sight gags, and predictable obstacles for the couple in love to overcome. The ending is never in question, but nothing exciting or original happens on the way, either.

The allstar cast redeems the material a bit. Cusack is always great to watch, and he gives a remarkably funny performance here, considering the rather unlikable character he plays. Julia Roberts, on the other hand, is just able to inject some energy into her bland, underwritten role. She's probably the only star in Hollywood who could carry off the part. Catherine Zeta-Jones is able to have more fun with her role, and she is quite amusing as the spoiled, demanding brat. Crystal does the usual Crystal shtick, though he's not as funny as he usually is. Hank Azaria plays an offensive, but funny, caricature as Gwen's Spanish lover. Christopher Walken proves, as always, that he is an American treasure and one of the coolest actors working today. And Seth Green has a few good scenes as Lee's assistant.

Roth isn't the most engaging director, and he lets the pace of the film drag a bit, giving his stars too much time to show off. The result is a very uneven final product that feels alternately rushed (the ending) and slow (much of the set-up and middle sections). Aside from a few stylistic touches, it all looks rather muddy as well, especially with the rather dull color scheme, saturated with orange hues.

It's a good thing the cast of America's Sweethearts is populated by, well, America's sweethearts. Otherwise, the film would've fallen victim to its been-there-done-that screenplay and direction. But with Roberts, et al on board, it becomes, at least, watchable.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Despite the fact that the one sided disc holds both a widescreen and a full-frame Super 35 transfer, there are no compression artifacts evident. The black level is likewise very strong. However, edge enhancement is a bit of a problem, with halos evident in quite a few scenes. Fine detail is lacking, as is contrast in darker scenes. The print used for the transfer was in excellent condition, but overall, this is just average, especially for a new release.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: For the most part, the audio is fine for a comedy. The front soundstage handles most of the sound, though is feels a bit constricted. The surrounds only come into play once in a while, usually to carry ambient noise or the score. There are little in the way of panning or directional effects. Dialogue is a bit of a problem area, with ADR fairly obvious throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring My Best Friend's Wedding,The Mask of Zorro
5 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras are fairly limited. There's the usual filmographies, production notes, and theatrical trailers (one for America's Sweethearts, along with spots for My Best Friend's Wedding and The Mask of Zorro). A bit more exciting are 5 deleted scenes, along with introductions from director Joe Roth. There's a few amusing bits here, but most were rightly excised.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

The star power alone makes this one worth seeing, and somehow, despite a lacking script and rather bland direction, America's Sweethearts manages to be an entertaining romantic comedy, but nothing more. The DVD is passable, but not outstanding. Recommended as a rental only.


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