Hollywood romance goes sour

Movie: America's Sweethearts

Our Rating: 1.50

In "America's Sweethearts," Julia Roberts is once again the "other woman," of sorts, playing the nebbish assistant to fictitious movie star Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Roberts' Kiki is not only the star's gopher but her sister, one who has long harbored romantic feelings for Gwen's superstar husband (John Cusack). Sound convoluted? It is, and this supposed send up of the Hollywood system amounts to little more than a waste of star talent with little satirical punch.

The film's movie-star couple, Gwen and Eddie (a rip-off of "Tom and Nicole"), split up. Gwen takes up with a hot-headed Hispanic (Hank Azaria, whose Spanish lisp is not only offensive but played into the ground), while Eddie lands at a mental-health retreat. In order to take the attention away from their as yet unseen final film, it is decided that a reuniting of the bickering couple through a press junket will achieve that goal. It's then up to Kiki and Lee Philips (Billy Crystal), a publicist whose recent canning will be reversed if he can get the couple together, to see that the media forget that they never even saw the film the director (Christopher Walken in another weirdo role) has yet to come through with.

It's quickly apparent that the subservient Kiki will burst out of her shell and claim the heart of Eddie, which her diva sibling so carelessly tossed aside. "America's Sweethearts" finds the majority of its laughs through crass pratfalls staged for B-list director Joe Roth "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise." Crystal gets his crotch sniffed and licked repeatedly by a dog. Cusack, while pulling cactus needles from his pelvic region, is captured on videotape and assumed to be masturbating. That's the kind of humor that the film sinks to. Even the film's score, by James Newton Howard, plays to the lowest common denominator, cuing every emotion with bombastic fervor.

After a disastrous appearance on "Larry King Live," Gwen asks Kiki, "Can we just get out of here?" I shared the same sentiment. Screenwriters Crystal and Peter Tolan ("Analyze This") may have been aiming at a satirical look at the absurdities of life in the public eye, but what they have come up with is a purely forgettable romantic comedy.

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