Main cast: Reese Witherspoon (Melanie Carmichael/Melanie Smooter), Josh Lucas (Jake Perry), Patrick Dempsey (Andrew Hennings), Candice Bergen (Mayor Kate Hennings), Mary Kay Place (Pearl Smooter), Fred Ward (Earl Smooter), Jean Smart (Stella Kay), and Ethan Embry (Bobby Ray)
Director: Andy Tennant
Josh Lucas is very pretty. He looks very, very pretty with no shirt on. Pretty, pretty, pretty.
There, I’ve used up the obligatory niceties, let’s get down to dicing this movie. Is Sweet Home Alabama a romantic comedy? Because I don’t see any chemistry between Reese Witherspoon’s Melanie Smooter and Josh Lucas’s Jake Perry. I do see lots of chemistry between Patrick Dempsey’s Andrew and Melanie, but since Andrew is Mr Oh Yeah Very Wrong, that’s a moot point.
Melanie Smooter leaves a husband and her hometown behind for glitzy New York, where she makes a name for herself as Melanie Carmichael, fashion designer extraordinaire. When Andrew Hennings, the son of the local mayor, proposes, she is delighted.
But first, she has to go back and get her husband Jake to divorce her. But he just won’t give her one, and she decides to get one by hook or by crook. Of course, she then relearns her Alabama roots and decides, hey, she wanna wave a Confederate flag around town too. After I strip naked and wade into a pool of piranhas first, that is.
Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas and the rest of the cast can’t be faulted. They really do try their best. I actually tear up a bit when Melanie gives her elegy at the grave of her dog, and there are times when Melanie and Jake look at each other that I almost believe that there’s magic between them. Then they open their mouths and all is ruined. It’s the script that’s at fault. It seems to believe that non-stop bickerings are all there is to romantic sexual tension. Witherspoon’s Melanie is so bratty and brittle that her abrupt transformation into Apple Pie Betty having me going “Huh?” If Melanie is a snob, her old neighbors aren’t any better – in fact, everyone here ends up rather petty and childish in some way or the other, especially when the motto of this movie is “Northerners can’t dump on Southerners, but hell yeah, let’s humiliate the Northerners!”.
No character development, nothing. All it takes for Melanie to get her old happy life back is to smile and act all Apple Pie Betty, and everybody accepts her, her hurtful words and bratty tantrums all forgotten.
Andy Tennant also directed the charming Ever After, but Sweet Home Alabama rings most hollow. If I listen closely, that sound may sound like “thud”… or maybe “dud”.