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‘Sweethearts’ has charm

Chick flick has less Julia Roberts, more substance

Revolution Studios’ “America’s Sweethearts,” directed by Joe Roth, is a feel-good summer romantic comedy.

Okay, it’s a chick flick. That should have been obvious, particularly with Julia Roberts’ name headlining all the trailers. Actually, Roberts plays a smaller part than the advertisers would have you believe. And though it is a chick flick by all definitions, “America’s Sweethearts” has more substance than you might expect, as well.

The true main characters are the fictitious Hollywood couple Eddie Thomas, played by John Cusack, and Gwen Harrison, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. The top-notch husband and wife team is the bread and butter of Hollywood. As celebrities, they could not be more successful. And as a couple, they could not be more perfect for one another.

That is, of course, until Harrison shacks up with another man, Hector, boisterously played by Hank Azaria.

America’s hearts, not to mention Thomas’, are turned inside out. Not only has Hollywood’s most romantic couple split, now the industry itself is scrambling to find a way to keep the bucks flowing.

Enter Christopher Walken, as an off-the-wall, slightly psychotic film director named Hal Weidmann, who dangles the very last Eddie-and-Gwen movie in front of the studio execs. The only problem is that he refuses to show it to them until a press junket is assembled and the unveiling of the film can be historical.

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With little other choice, studio publicist Lee Phillips, played by writer/producer Billy Crystal, sets out to convince Thomas and Harrison to smile for the cameras just a little longer. But since there is no movie to be reviewed until Weidmann says so, Phillips schemes to distract the press by exploiting the private lives of the couple.

Add to that the love triangles between Thomas, Harrison, Hector, and Harrison’s sister/assistant Kiki — here’s where Roberts comes in — and America barely notices the missing film.

“America’s Sweethearts” is packed with big names, all of whom live up to what we expect from them as actors.

Zeta-Jones is whiny and spoiled; Crystal brings out the slapstick; Cusack has the tortured, sensitive soul; and Roberts is the level-headed girl next door. Together they create a winning formula by romantic comedy rules.

This movie, though it’s about the dark side of Hollywood, does all the things a nice Hollywood movie should. It is a well-written script — the strings are all tied in the end and the characters are all worth caring about. And for the most part, it is funny.

Occasionally there is a bad one-liner or a slightly distasteful cultural comment — Azaria’s fake Castilian accent is, well, pronounced — but most of the humor is intelligent and entertaining. As with any chick flick, things get a little sappy at times, but you might be surprised at the overall well roundedness of this film.

Just don’t over-think it, and even those of you who shudder at the words “romantic comedy” might enjoy the latest Roberts masterpiece.

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