America's Sweethearts
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It can be interesting to put a bunch of good actors in a film with a bad script and so so directing and see what happens. In America's Sweethearts, we have John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alan Arkin, Stanley Tucci and Christopher Walken. Well, it's interesting but it's not a good movie. To some extent these very good actors rise above the material but the big question is what's with Billy Crystal. He's listed as the main writer on this film and he's a really funny guy but I guess even he can have an off day. Joe Roth is a great producer of comedies (Major League, While You Were Sleeping) but his previous big directing credit is The Revenge of the Nerds II. This film which, I think, we have to list as a romantic comedy just isn't very funny. The setup is that two actors (Catherine Zeta Jones and John Cusack) who are married in real life, are also a screen couple a la Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. (OK, they weren't married but you know what I mean.) Unfortunately, this couple, who are known as America's Sweethearts, have split up after Jones had an affair with a Spanish co-star (Hank Azaria). They have a new film coming out and the head of the studio (Stanley Tucci) is worried so he rehires a PR guy (Billy Crystal) that he just fired to handle the publicity. Also in the mix, is Jones' sister and assistant (Julia Roberts). The cast is soon ensconced in a resort in Nevada with a few hundred members of the press for the first screening of the new film. OK, this could be a funny setup but the presence of Hank Azaria sends out bad signals right from the beginning. Hank can be funny for two minutes in a sitcom but he gets on your nerves pretty fast up there on the screen.  Cusack and Roberts are the real romantic leads here but they are strangely relegated to supporting roles. Crystal and Jones get most of the screen time. You keep wondering where Cusack and Roberts have got to because they have some real chemistry together and are the more interesting subplot. But, really, they are sadly wasted here even though they give it the old college try. Major comic scenes in this film include Cusack picking cactus spines out of his crotch, and Julia Roberts made up to look 60 pounds heavier. You see, she used to be fat and now that she is thin, Cusack notices that she is much more interesting than her Diva sister. Here is yet another film sending great messages to the kids in the audience. Also wasted is Stanley Tucci. He's a really great actor but gets cast as studio directors because he is bald. He gets better parts in Indie films (Big Night, The Imposters, Joe Gould's Secret) where his hairline isn't such an issue. Christopher Walken has a funny cameo as a Stanley-Kubrick-type director who is editing the film right up until screening time. Another great actor, Alan Arkin, likewise is funny as Cusack's counselor at the retreat where he is recovering from his marital breakup. So there are some good moments, and as you can see, there's a great cast but it was painful having to watch them.