Sweet Home Alabama

Bomb Rating: 

Note to guys: This is not a good time to turn to her with your mouth stuffed full of popcorn and huff "Whutt?"

The first few scenes in this movie will get a lot of guys into trouble. Up-and-coming New York fashion designer Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) is being romanced by the mayor's son, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey). He's rich, dashing and considerate. He coats her apartment in rose petals. He springs the question by reserving an entire engagement ring store where they proceed to buy a rock worth (for normal people) 200 months' salary. This is the point where most women turn to glare balefully at the oafish significant other they're chained to in real life. Note to guys: This is not a good time to turn to her with your mouth stuffed full of popcorn and huff "Whutt?"

Melanie has only one small problem: She has to hightail it back to her hometown in rural Alabama (as opposed to "urban" Alabama, I suppose) to finalize her divorce from her first husband, the simple-but-wise Jake (Josh Lucas), and explain to family and friends alike why she hasn't deigned to talk to them for the last seven years. Quick, now close your eyes and envision what happens next. Now open them. You've just seen the movie. For free.

Doubt it? See if you can already pass the quiz:

1. At first, Melanie disdains her rural past, but eventually ______________
* Denies it outright, pretending not to recognize her parents and claiming that she's actually British.
* Reconciles with her southern heritage by marrying her first cousin.
* Comes to terms with her past and realizes it's a valuable part of who she is.

2. At first, Melanie snarls at her first husband, but over time __________
* Decides that he'll at least be good for one last cheap fling.
* Gets him out of the way altogether by framing him for the murder of a Baptist preacher.
* Realizes what a genuine guy he is and that he'll forever occupy a special place in her heart.

3. After Melanie spends a week treating everyone in Alabama like crap, ________
* She leaves town with her middle finger extended through the sunroof and never sees any of them again.
* They set her car on fire and spray paint "Yoo R a Yankee Lezbo!" on her parents' house.
* She makes a tedious apology speech and they forgive her, because they're good, simple country folk.

The only surprise in "Sweet Home Alabama" is the degree to which the movie sanitizes its setting, presenting a Deep South with all its rough edges sanded off. It's like a Disney theme park titled... I don't know, It's a Small Trailer Park After All? Racism USA? The Six-Fingered Jamboree? This is a South where people celebrate their heritage by dressing up and holding goofy Civil War reenactments rather than binge drinking and beating the crap out of atheists.

In the end, Melanie can't be married to both Jake and Andrew (this isn't "Sweet Home Utah"), so she must anoint a winner and a loser. As in most romantic comedies, this conflict is resolved with an earnest speech rather than a hail of gunfire and/or lawsuits. Loser-boy simply whispers "I just want you to be happy" rather than seizing the opportunity to turn this momentary romantic setback into an entertaining hostage situation. But then again, sitting through a movie like "Sweet Home Alabama" is a bit of a hostage situation in itself.

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