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America's Sweethearts (PG-13)
Columbia Pictures

In spite of some good, giggly moments and a virtual cinematic orgy of pretty faces, America's Sweetheartsdisappoints both as a screwball romantic comedy and as a satire on the obscene marketing practices of Hollywood.

Blame it on Billy Crystal and co-screenwriter Peter Tolan who put together a script that's basically a string of cute sketches with no coherent thread. Clearly the writers want to say something clever and biting about the movie junket scene in which journalists are wined, dined and basically paid by the studio to say something nice about a film. But America's Sweethearts, borrowing a movie junket at a luxury resort in the Nevada desert as its setting and premise, mostly fails in getting across the utter cynicism and excess of this kind of public relations prostitution.

Ironically, Crystal, who has the best role in the film, has lately been hoofing it on late-night television and even Oprah with co-stars Julia Roberts and John Cusack, making the PR campaign for the film look nearly as schmaltzy and manipulative as the one in the film.

Cusack plays actor Eddie Thomas who alongside movie diva Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) has made a string of romantic hit films, thus immortalizing the couple as "America's Sweethearts." But Gwen has dumped Eddie for Latin gigolo, Hector (Hank Azaria with a Castilian lisp), and Eddie has subsequently had a breakdown. Roberts plays Kiki, Gwen's long-suffering sister/personal assistant who, in the year that Gwen and Eddie have been separated, has conveniently lost 60 pounds and has -- voila! -- turned into Julia Roberts, thus making her eligible for a romance with Eddie.

Crystal is Lee Phillips, a studio publicist charged with releasing to the press Gwen and Eddie's last film together, directed by the mysterious, legendary filmmaker Hal Weidmann, played hilariously by Christopher Walken. The catch is that Weidmann is holding the film hostage and won't let anyone see it prior to the press screening, so all that Lee can really do is woo the press with Gwen and Eddie rumors and sightings. In the meantime, with no real accounting for where the feelings come from, Eddie falls for Kiki.

Basically, we don't care about any of these people and the romance has about as much sizzle as a baked potato. The film's best moments feature Alan Arkin as a Hollywood wellness center guru, Walken as the crazed director, and Gwen's crotch-sniffing doberman as Lee's comic foil. Most of the scenes that fall between theirs fall flat. And with a talented cast such as this one, that's a disappointment.

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