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America’s Sweethearts (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

America's Sweethearts

America’s Sweethearts


Starring Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Larry King and Seth Green. 

Screenplay by Peter Tolan and Billy Crystal.

Directed by Joe Roth.

Distributed by Revolution Studios/Columbia Tri-Star Pictures.  Rated PG-13.  103 minutes.

There was certainly enough talent attached to this project; John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal and a strong supporting cast and crew.  So why is America’s Sweethearts such a lifeless mess?

This movie is about a weekend press junket for a bad film in which the two biggest stars in the movies have to be civil to each other.  The problem is they are getting a divorce.

The whole press junket idea is an unfortunate one for Roberts.  Watching it, you remember how much more interesting the very similar five-minute press junket scene she did in Notting Hill was.  Then you start comparing this movie to that one, and that contrast does America’s Sweethearts no favors.

You never really buy Roberts’ character Kiki.  She needs to do more than wear a fat suit in some flashback scenes for us to believe that she is supposed to be a shy wallflower with self-esteem problems – or someone whose movie star sister can take total advantage of.

Cusack, who can be such a good actor, gives in to all of his worst habits, ratcheting up his normal shtick to annoying levels.  This not only betrays Cusack’s performance, but it also is completely out of step with the man his character would be.

Billy Crystal gamely tries to play his character as a heartless Hollywood type, but of course, being Billy Crystal he has to pull his punches and eventually turns out to really be a nice guy.

Zeta-Jones is the only one who actually creates a character, she may be a spoiled, pampered bitch, but she has fire, she has passion, if only for herself.

An amazing supporting cast, including Hank Azaria, Stanley Tucci, Seth Green and Christopher Walken get stuck playing either totally clichéd characters or absurd ciphers.  In particular, Walken’s hippie director is just preposterous and his “surprise ending” is too ridiculous for words.  It could have never, ever happened.

I had realized how little the people onscreen mattered to me much earlier, though, when in the triumphant scene where Cusack and Roberts finally give in to years of unrealized passion.  I was so uninterested with this transparent plot point that the only thing I could find to latch onto in the scene to in any way intrigue me was that I never realized John Cusack had so much chest hair. (7/01)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright © 2001 All rights reserved.  Posted: July 20, 2001.

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