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Touchstone Home Video presents
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

"Hi, I'm Melanie Carmichael, Jake's snotty Yankee bitch wife."
- Melanie (Reese Witherspoon)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 02, 2003

Stars: Reese Witherspoon
Other Stars: Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Mary Kay Place, Jean Smart, Candice Bergen, Dakota Fanning
Director: Andy Tennant

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language/sexual references
Run Time: 01h:48m:42s
Release Date: February 04, 2003
UPC: 786936208030
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-BB+ C+

DVD Review

Sweet Home Alabama reaffirms the old Hollywood adage that small town life is preferable to the bustling big city, that the slack-jawed yokels and down-home values of the country are better than the cynical, fast-paced rush of the metropolis. That this picture is basically a rehash of similarly themed romantic comedies of the past does not mean that it isn't enjoyable or charming.

Reese Witherspoon plays Melanie, an Alabama girl who moved to New York to become a big-time fashion designer. She also meets and falls in love with Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), a JFK Jr.-esque pretty boy whose mother (Candice Bergen) is the mayor. Instead of a "meet cute," we get an "aw proposal" as Andrew pops the question during an impromptu visit to Tiffany's. She accepts, and quickly flies back home to take care of unfinished business in the form of one estranged husband.

Jake (Josh Lucas) was Melanie's childhood sweetheart, and they married when she got pregnant shortly after high school. After a miscarriage, Melanie decided that she needed to get away from her family and her troubled past (she was a bad seed known as "Felony Melanie" after all). Now, of course, she finds that perhaps she hasn't changed as much as she would like to think, and her old flame hasn't burned out quite yet. The rest of the movie is, of course, a foregone conclusion. Anyone who watched the glossy, empowering trailers should have been able to guess both the ending and the "be true to yourself" theme that runs through the film.

Clichés and predictability aside, Sweet Home Alabama is not entirely without merit. Andy Tennant (Ever After, Fools Rush In) keeps things light without dwelling too much on broad physical comedy. The screenplay from C. Jay Cox isn't content to craft an easy solution in which Melanie is clearly going to pick the nice guy over the jerk—Andrew stays sweet and likeable all the way through. He falters a bit with the stereotypes of the big city versus the Alabama country folk, but his jabs, like the Civil War re-creationist society, never feel mean-spirited (though a subplot about a gay country boy, played by Ethan Embry, does come off rather poorly).

The real reason to watch is Reese Witherspoon. As she did with Legally Blonde, bettering a mediocre movie with a charismatic, star-making performance, so does she here. Melanie is a fairly standard character, but Reese gives her depths that, by all accounts, she shouldn't have. Sweet Home Alabama rarely surprises, but Witherspoon continues to.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Once you realize that Sweet Home Alabama was filmed to look rather soft, this transfer is actually quite nice. Colors look bright and saturated, blacks are nice and solid, and shadow detail is good. I noticed no aliasing or artifacting, though some edge enhancement is present. The source material looks quite clean, with no obvious graininess.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in a nice 5.1 track that's actually surprisingly active. It's still rather front heavy, which is expected for a romantic comedy, but it also features good surround use, either as support for the pop songs on the soundtrack or for effects like thunder and rain. Dialogue is nice and clear as well, and the front soundstage is nice and wide, exhibiting decent directionality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Andy Tennant
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. SHeDAISY music video, Mine All Mine
Extras Review: Sweet Home Alabama includes some decent supplements, but it feels a little weak. As much as I complain about the routine HBO-style featurettes, it's still nice to hear interviews with the actors or get a peek behind the scenes. And where is the trailer?

I can't complain about the presentation of the eight deleted scenes, though. They are included in their original aspect ratio, with fairly good picture quality, and nice video introductions from the director, so you don't end up watching the same scene twice. The excised footage is fairly interesting—an entire character was left on the cutting room floor—and Tennant's explanations for cutting them are worthwhile. Also of interest is a bizarre, weirdly morbid alternate ending, also with an introduction from Tennant.

The director gets more airtime with his commentary track. Though he does have the tendency to overanalyze the plot and gush about the cast (it's only a lightweight romantic comedy, after all), he shares enough production stories, technical details, and personal recollections to keep fans of the film listening.

Rounding out the disc is a music video for the song Mine All Mine from the country girl group SHeDAISY.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Sweet Home Alabama is a comfortably formulaic romantic comedy that survives on the strength of its star. It doesn't feature many memorable moments or big laughs, but it is an entirely pleasant diversion. The DVD from Buena Vista is a little light on supplements, but the audio and video quality are good enough to recommend a purchase to fans.


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