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Film Review: Sweet Home Alabama

Is it a comedy? Is it a love story? Is it any good?

Her Blondeness Reese Witherspoon was superb as a full on debutant airhead in the ditsy but lovable "Legally Blonde". In "Sweet Home Alabama" a slight romantic comedy, she attempts - with various degrees of success - to enhance her reputation as a comic actress.

Sweet Home AlabamaReasonably directed by Andy Tennant, "Sweet Home Alabama" tells of how Melanie Carmichael, an upmarket fashion designer played by Witherspoon, becomes engaged to the implausibly perfect son of the Mayor of New York, smoothly played by Patrick Dempsey. He's too good to be true, tall, dark, handsome, and best of all, impossibly rich. So far so good, but it then transpires that Carmichael is in fact an Alabama gal, and that, unknown to Melanie's fianc?she's been married for years to Jake, a ne'r do well southern boy lazily portrayed by Josh Lucas - picture a poor man's Matthew Mc Conaghey and you'll get the drift. Melanie returns home to Pleasantville to push forward a quickie divorce. In the best Hollywood traditions, her accent suddenly switches from Big Apple snazzy to southern fried sassy, high heels are ditched for cowboy boots, and Melanie reveals herself to be a Southern Belle.

In a superficial and entirely unconvincing way "Sweet Home Alabama" attempts to portray a number of dial a clich?conflicts including Big City glamour vs Small Town grits n' greens parochialism, and it also pits Northern Democrat liberalism against Southern Republican conservatism. Ultimately the movie is undermined by a core conflict - is "Sweet Home Alabama" a comedy or a romance? In her uniquely doe-eyed slightly pug nosed way Witherspoon does not spare herself trying to make this movie work, much as she did in "Legally Blonde". She energetically works the screen in almost every major scene. The experienced and, it must be said, slightly scary Candice Bergen is the only member of the supporting cast to compete with Witherspoon. Bergen is superbly bilious as the control freak mother in law from hell. However the rest of the supporting cast barely flicker on the screen.

Most of this movie's comedic set pieces are too wooden and its laughs are too hackneyed and half baked to make it a true comedy. It also fails as a romance because neither Josh Lucas nor Patrick Dempsey show the presence or the wit (or indeed the craft) to really work the movie's obvious romantic angles. As a result we're left with a so-so comedy cum weedy tear jerker which goes pretty much nowhere and says pretty much nothing.

Witherspoon will do better but file "Sweet home Alabama" under "F" for "Forgettable".

Anthony Morrissey

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