[MOVIE REVIEW]Sweet Home is where the heartless, spoiled brat is

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Sweet Home is where the heartless, spoiled brat is

Few actresses can take on the role of a lying, narcissistic, spoiled brat and make her charming. Yet, Reese Witherspoon manages to pull it off as Melanie Carmichael in "Sweet Home Alabama." You can't decide whether you want to strangle her or root for her.

Melanie is a small-town girl who escapes her hillbilly past and moves to New York. In that city of dreams, she hits all the high notes: becoming a celebrated fashion designer and engaged to the mayor's son, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey).

The snag is, she is married to her high-school sweetheart. No one in New York, least of all her fiance, knows about her past.

So she scurries on home to Pigeon Creek, Alabama for the first time in seven years to demand that Jake (Josh Lucas) sign the divorce papers, and sign them quick. Jake has other ideas. He wants to prove himself to Melanie and win her back.

By this time, I'm wondering, why did Melanie wait seven years to ask for a divorce that she so clearly wanted? In seven years, she could have gotten divorced several times. How did she land on the cover of W magazine and be profiled by all the major media without anyone discovering her past?

And yes, the movie is supposed to be fluff, but naming a southern boy Bobby Ray could not be more insulting. The South is exploited for all it's worth, with parents who live in a double large (luxury mobile home) and relax on the latest La-Z-Boy recliners. The sensitive redneck Jake has a dog, the sorriest looking bloodhound, and lives in a shack and drinks beer. The people in her small town even dress up for elaborate re-enactments of the Civil War.

The plot is pure Hollywood hokum ?cynical city dwellers versus warmhearted hicks. And it's trite and drawn out out, too. Melanie even gives a soliloquy over her dog's grave. Is this supposed to be touching or is she kidding us?

If this were a fairy tale, Melanie would be the step sister, not Cinderella; the frog, not the princess. The question is, which man is Prince Charming? Which man will she choose? Will Melanie lose her high and mighty attitude? Does she have her head screwed on right?

Having said all that, the movie has a certain sweetness with Witherspoon at its center, and several of the supporting players turn in fun performances.

Candice Bergen rehashes her droll character from the sitcom "Murphy Brown," this time as the mayor of New York. (Or is she playing Hillary Clinton?) Ethan Embry gives a fresh touch as the old friend Bobby Ray.

It's the acting that keeps the movie rolling -- from Witherspoon's spunk to her clashes with Lucas and Bergen -- making for some delightful chemistry in a romantic romantic comedy.

But like most fairy tales, this one is hardly believable.

by Joe Yong-hee

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