Film Review: Sweet Home Alabama

(I’m compiling some comic book reviews, so I’ll keep posting a selection of smaller reviews of films I’ve seen on the small screen, in an effort to talk about them without doing full-blown discussions. Expect to see a lot of these – I like to watch films and talk about them, if you hadn’t guessed from reading this blog.)

Sweet Home Alabama broke box office records for the most money taken in the month of September ($38M) and made over $125M domestically. After watching it, I have no idea why.

Sweet Home Alabama is a very ordinary romcom, seemingly made to be cinematic wallpaper, to watch with your partner on a Sunday afternoon, after which the memory of the film slips away like a cloud on a windy day. The redeeming factor exists in the form of Reese Witherspoon; despite the ‘Greasy’ nickname coined by Kevin Smith and her calculated approach to her career, she is a good actor with a lot of charm (stretched to breaking point in Legally Blonde 2, but it’s hard to hold it against her). It was a surprise to discover that she stepped into the role at the last minute, taking over from Charlize Theron who jumped ship due to an actors’ strike, as the concept seems to be made-to-measure for Reese; still, they both have Oscars now so there probably aren’t any hard feelings …

Reese is Melanie Carmichael, a newly successful fashion designer living in New York, who has to go back home to her redneck roots in Alabama to finally divorce her first husband (Josh Lucas) after she is proposed to by the son (Patrick Dempsey) of the mayor of New York (Candice Bergen). Only, after being there for a while, she discovers it’s not so easy, as we learn why she left there seven years ago, changed her name and hasn’t been back since …

A romantic comedy should, by definition, be romantic and funny; otherwise, it’s not a romcom and should be something else. This film isn’t particularly romantic or funny, and just sort of sits there, hoping for an identity. Even the climax feels wrong; Dempsey’s character just walks away from Weatherspoon, just so that she has no impediments and can go back to her original husband (and the alleged excitement of the reveal being that she forgot to sign the divorce papers, which is apparently enough for her to dump the eligible man she was going to marry and take up with someone she hasn’t seen for seven years prior to this return trip). It’s just so flat.

Maybe it’s because it is named after a popular song; not the original film title (must have been a product executive decision), the song is played not once but twice during the film, as if to justify the annoying habit of giving romcoms the title of well-known pop song. A non-entity of a film with not much going for it; at least they didn’t make a sequel (Even Sweeter Home Alabama?).

Rating: DA

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