Review: “Sweet Home Alabama”

After bowling them over with the delightful yet light-hearted “Legally Blonde”, Reese Witherspoon once again is etching yet another mark in the family friendly ‘sassy blonde in strange territory’ genre she’s becoming well known for.

As Meg Ryan and Freddie Prinze Jr. are to soapy romantic comedies and dull teen movies respectively, Witherspoon seems to be plowing into the same well-mined territory here but the script, the characters and the direction are far more generic and unimpressive than the solid yet still overrated ‘Blonde’ (“Clueless” remains arguably the best film of this style) though it goes to show off how strong a talent she is to make it work as much as it does, including a ugly drunken bar scene that almost destroys all the sincerity and compassion we’ve built up for her from not only this movie but the last too.

Witherspoon is helped by a quite likeable cast too, albeit one stuck with somewhat generic set roles. Patrick Dempsey has had a bit of a comedy comeback recently with an excellent guest spot on “Will & Grace” and shows off that charisma and likability in this far more than films he was the young lead in about 10-15 years ago.

The always underrated but joyously fun Ethan Embry, though stuck with the closeted gay guy role, is a deft comic talent. Josh Lucas, whose been in everything of late, once again shows he’s a warm male lead even if the character feels very rough around the edges. The rest are your generic comedy supporting players from the bitchy fiance mother (Candice Bergin in a forgettable role) to the southern Ma & Pa routine from Mary Kay Place and Fred Ward.

That’s the real shame here – how much we’ve seen all this before. The directing and the script are so predictable that one could tell that short of Reese’s casting this is a TV movie at best. Plot points and twists are either telegraphed well in advance or pulled out of nowhere that it makes the ultra short running time feel quite a bit longer whilst the pacing kind of jumps all over the place (esp. the Manhattan scenes).

Still, the sets and look of the film is quite solid and even though there’s a lack of energy to the script there is something of a charm to it which makes it one not to write off right away. There’s somewhat annoying sentimentality but a lot less than I expected, and whilst the concept of the love triangle (specifically choosing between a rich new love or poor old love) has been overdone it still works. It’s a good airline movie or rental maybe.