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America's Sweethearts

Starring: Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Christopher Walken, Stanley Tucci, Seth Green, Alan Arkin.
Directed by: Joe Roth
Written, believe it or not, by: Billy Crystal & Peter Tolan



Bluntluy speaking? I have to begin with a preamble here folks. The cast, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts, reads like a director's dream list. I love John Cusack. I have since the teenage years. He's super swell on the retina, mega-talented and simply charming. Catherine Zeta Jones is a very talented and beautiful actor. She's proven herself in more than a few good roles, and stood-up to the less-than-flatering press for her personal choice in spawning partners. Julia Roberts has that certain light within her that could keep a small fishing village lit through a storm of many days…. BUT, I still hated this colossal erroneously cast hack-fest-extravaganza.

It's not that any actor involved was bad. Contrary, they were consummate professionals uttering the doggie doo-doo script they were given as best they could. It's not that the film was telegraphically predictable, which it was, that made it so unbearable. It was just its relentless corniness and goofy music piping in all around in Dolbly accenting the kucka that made one squirm with each frame. Don't get me wrong it's a comedy, you don't look for Schindler's List depth - if you know what I mean. Even park- your-brain-at-the-concession-stand comedies are bearable, enjoyable even charming--when they work. You're there to laugh, giggle, dare I say have a few Guffaws! Not here. American Sweethearts has no such comedic charm, and left the laughter for part two I guess.

Poor Bill Crystal reduced himself (as he co-wrote this) to spewing Yiddish jargon for laughs. And you always know you're in trouble - comically - when they bring out the testicle jokes (Farrelly Bros. Films being the solitary exception to the God-deemed rule).

The veneer they call a story ...revolves around America's movie sweethearts, Eddie (John "still talented-even if I sometimes pick Stilton cheesy scripts" Cusack) and Gwen (Catherine "I just had to get out of the house…that baby cries all the time" Zeta Jones).

They are actors responsible for Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks-esque fluffy romantic fare the public can't get enough of. They are also, married off screen, though not happily. Their marriage is on the rocks; big old New England coastal rocks. Gwen had an affair, which lead to a separation, which lead to Eddie's breakdown. She's living with a Spaniard named Hector (Hank Azaria). And the token Spanish jokes are flying.

Gwen and Eddie are still the world's most romantic couple-in the public's eyes. Though, the reality is quite different. Eddie's distraught, a year and a half later, over the celestial break-up and is knee deep in herbal healing tonics and found repeating silly daily inspirations stashed away in a Hollywood style "wellness center", while Gwen enjoys long hot days fiddling with her new man kebab while sipping on fame's cool elixir. Her last two movies failed and she's getting nervous about her star's shine though.

The two have a "last" movie in post-preduction, Time Over Time, that could resurrect her career, and after all, promotion of the film regardless of their personal dysfunctional differences, must go on.

So the sneaky manipulative studio head (Stanley "way too good to slum like this" Tucci) gets Lee (Billy Crystal know this is killing me Bill) a sneaky manipulative PR guy from the studio to get them together for a studio saving press junket in the middle of nowhere. The couple will have to be seen together, pose together, and play nice for the nice press people. Lee begs Gwen's assistant, sister in chains, and all 'round do-girl Kiki (Julia Roberts) to get the high maintenance Gwen to the Hyatt hideaway in the desert.

Lee pays off Eddie's wellness guru (Alan Arkin) to convince Eddie he's among the sane again, and off they all go for a fun filled lithium free weekend of promoting, doting, and gloating
. Oh, the hilarity! Not. But there's more in the comedy slop, er, stew. Seems their coveted "last" film, Time Over Time, Is being held captive by its brilliant borderline commitable avante garde director (Christopher Walken- walking through the role).

Now what are they going to do? If the press finds out there's no film…or that Eddie and Gwen are heading to divorce court…. or that there's a funny movie in the other theater they're outta there! No press is worst than bad press? Never heard that one...

The casting is all off too. Taking the Hollywood's "IT" gals and hodge-podging them together does not an instant success make...It was hard to believe Catherine and John as a couple. She is so much more mature. Not old! Mature. He still has that punk edge. He was wearing black leather pants for criminey sakes, while Zeta-Jones is elegant in a Bonwit Teller sheik way. And Julia...They stuck a quazi-fat suit on her for a couple of scenes but left her sterling personality in tact. So it was hard to buy the overlooked-never-had-a-man -sister routine. Fat folks get loved too. Please.

Hector's (Azaria) campy exaggerated Spanish accent was very funny for a a few scenes. But, like the rest of the cookie-cutter characters these mega-talents impeccably portrayed, he too became a heaping helping of dullburger helper in a very short while.

John Cusack is his adorable, edible self. A tall slice of man I wouldn't mind sautéing a while on a long summer's eve. He is a talented fellow, who should return to something dark, or brainy. Remember Being John Malkovitcabbage? Brilliance.

I love the people in this movie. I tried to find something. I forced a few laughs, for nostalgia's sake. I recommend you rent another movie by each cast member and forgo this farce. Maybe rent it later on, if Gross Pointe Blank, High Fidelity, Notting Hill, Analyze This, Traffic, The Impostors, Big Night or Celebrity are all out at the Blockwood Video.

Snack Recommendation: Runny scrambled eggs




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