It sounds like it can’t miss — a delicious situation created by a guy who knows how to write jokes, with an all-star cast. But it does miss. Billy Crystal, who wrote the script with Peter Tolan, delivers wisecracks, but he gives us television sitcom-like “onesa” characters (i.e., “one’s a spoiled diva, one’s a preening Spanish lover type”) whose behavior seems prompted by whatever suits the scene rather than any kind of emotional truth — and that, after all, is as central to the success of a comedy as it is to a drama.
“America’s Sweethearts” are two beloved screen idols whose films together have thrilled audiences and filled studio bank accounts. But she (Catherine Zeta Jones as Gwen) has fallen for someone else and he (John Cusack as Eddie) has had a nervous breakdown. Now their last film together is about to be released, and the studio is desperate for them to bring all of their star power as a couple to the press junket. Since the studio head has not actually seen the movie, all he has to stir up support from the press is Gwen and Eddie. And the person responsible for making it all work is Lee (Crystal), a publicist so dedicated that he says if her heard that his mother died, he would spin the news by saying how much she would have loved the movie.
A few insider digs at Hollywood and the press, repeated behavior with no apparent motivation, and some extended vulgar humor keep derailing this movie every time Roberts’ 1000-watt smile or one of the other star turns comes close to making it work.
Parents should know that the movie is raunchier than many PG-13s, with intended humor coming from an (inaccurate) accusation of public masturbation and from insults about another man’s genital size. The movie has strong language and sexual references and situations, and some comic violence. Characters drink and use (and possibly abuse) prescription drugs. A mental breakdown is treated as a comic development, mere self-indulgence rather than a legitimate illness.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Notting Hill” and “The Runaway Bride.” They might also like to see some classic earlier comedies about Hollywood, like “Sullivan’s Travels,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Bombshell.”