As much flak as America's Sweethearts gets from critics and movie watchers alike, I thoroughly enjoy this film, and have watched it many times. The execution of certain parts could be done better, but it has a decent plot. The film is a humorous take on all the unwanted (and even sometimes welcomed) attention that goes along with celebrity relationships- especially when you are the Hollywood “it” couple dealing with a very public separation. That being said, it is only done as well as it has because of the brilliantly-casted characters.
The story revolves around movie publicist Lee (Billy Crystal), who is having a difficult time delivering the last film of the famous duo Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack). The press is relentlessly seeking to divulge any information on the movie, which no one has seen because it is being held hostage by the director (Christopher Walken), who has his own agenda in mind for his latest piece of work. As a way to fend off the media frenzy, Lee does everything in his power to get the former couple to agree to promote the film together, hoping it will keep the press distracted from the fact that the movie has not been released. He even enlists the help of Gwen's sister/personal assistant (Julia Roberts) to get the high-maintenance diva on board with the plan, while he tracks down an emotionally vulnerable Eddie on the brink of a breakdown.
Let me first unashamedly admit that this is one of my favorite roles of both Julia Roberts and John Cusack. Don't get me wrong, there are a long list of other roles each of them have done that are much more notable and deserving of praise, but there is something very charming about them as these characters that makes me want to keep watching this movie. Roberts plays Kiki, the timid, formerly-overweight sister who is always overshadowed by the flawless Gwen. She is the character that you root for, because you see her selflessness and supportiveness of her sister, even to the point of not having her own life. Cusack plays Eddie, the down-to-earth but lovesick leading man, who throughout the movie learns what he values most, and what love really means to him. We have all been Eddie on some level, searching for who we are after heartbreak, and we have also been Kiki, finally finding our voice after realizing we were not truly living. Her shining moments in the film serve as a keen reminder as to why Julia Roberts was the real-life American sweetheart of Hollywood for so long.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is phenomenal as the self-centered, manipulative supernova who will do whatever it takes to further her career. Billy Crystal's character, while he is clearly looking out for himself most of all, still shows a likable side as you see his genuine concern for the well-being of Eddie, Kiki and Gwen. Even Hank Azaria is hilarious as Gwen's new exotic lover. I would without a doubt say that the most compelling parts of this film are solely due to the character dynamics as you see glimpses of their human nature come through in rather entertaining ways.
What this movie lacks in depth of story, it makes up for in character development. It is a delightful romantic comedy I was pleasantly surprised with; you could easily find it on in the background of my house if I am in the mood for something lighthearted and amusing.
Rating: 21 ethnically ambiguous Hank Azarias out of 30 (70%)