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America's Sweethearts

America's Sweethearts treats audiences to an insider's look at the wacky world of moviemaking, where diva-esque behavior, schizophrenic directors, greedy studio execs, beleaguered assistants and break-ups of popular movie star couples are all just part of everyday Hollywood.


Welcome to the world of the ''press junket,'' that fascinating media circus where the press is invited to view a film before its opening and interview the people who made it. In this case, the ''stars'' are Eddie Thomas and Gwen Harrison (John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones), a megastar Hollywood couple publicly on the outs. Their last film together is being held hostage by the highly eccentric director Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken), so studio head Dave Kingman (Stanley Tucci) enlists the help of studio publicist extraordinaire Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal) to save the day. Lee needs to generate enough ''buzz'' to ensure the movie is a smash success by using any means possible, including involving Kiki (Julia Roberts), Gwen's put-upon sister and assistant, in a love triangle with Gwen and Eddie. The thing is, Kiki has secretly been in love with Eddie for years, and this becomes just the chance she's been hoping for.


With this stellar cast it can't get much better. Roberts, hot off her Oscar win, follows up with another finely tuned comedic performance. Her Kiki goes from plain Jane to spunky spitfire in a minute flat, with hilarious results--and Roberts has the requisite chemistry with Cusack, who prides himself on picking quality films that let him shine. No one is better than Cusack at displaying angst while at the same time falling in love. As Kiki's superstar sister Gwen, Zeta-Jones oozes comfortably in her diva role (maybe a little too comfortably?) and has the unfortunate task of playing the unsympathetic character. She handles the part fine, but she might not have done so well on her own without the support of a strong comedic cast. Tucci's studio head and Hank Azaria as a hunky Spaniard are superb. And then there's Walken. Maybe playing the eccentric is a cakewalk for him, but his presence elevates any film.


Crystal, who cowrote and produced the film, and former Disney-head-turned-director Joe Roth hit the nail right on the head. But hey, this is easy stuff, folks. Industry players parodying themselves isn't rocket science. The only flaw could be that the film might be too ''inside'' for the average moviegoer, with some of the really funny jokes going over their heads. But it's minor. There is enough going for the film to make it a big hit. Ironically, Roberts' personal life is somewhat mirrored in the film, due to her own public breakup with Benjamin Bratt, which may make a difference at the box office.

Bottom Line

Go ahead and immerse yourself in the world of the rich and famous--and laugh your head off at the absurdity of it all.