Where the Skies Are So Blue 

Sweet Home Alabama (PG-13)

Touchstone Pictures

I swanee (that's Southern for 'I swear'), watching Sweet Home Alabama made me so homesick for the South, I went straight home and fried up a couple of baloney sandwiches, turned on a Travis Tritt CD and cuddled up with my ole hounddog Blue.


What really happened was this: After watching Sweet Home Alabama, I couldn't remember a thing I had seen in the last two hours and couldn't stop singing that obnoxious song for two days.

If you love that song, or the group that sings it, sorry. It has now been officially usurped and ruined by its gratuitous overuse in this lightweight romantic comedy, worth seeing only if you are: a) so in love with Reese Witherspoon you want to die; b) you've been desperately waiting to see Mary Kay Place play a redneck housewife for the past 10 years; or c) the sight of Josh Lucas' sparkling blue eyes in the previews got you all tingly inside.

(Hint: Go only if your answer is "c." He's pretty dang hot.)

Witherspoon stars as Melanie Carmichael, up-and-coming New York fashion designer, engaged to marry up-and-coming political star Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) who happens to also be the son of New York City mayor Candace Bergen. But before marrying Andew, Melanie must first return to her hometown of Pigeon Creek, Alabama, and secure a divorce from her estranged husband Jake (blue-eyed Lucas). Andrew and his mother, under the assumption that Melanie is a Southern belle, are unaware of her actual redneck pedigree and must come to terms with the class issue as well as the pesky problem of the other husband.

And once back home, Melanie must decide whether she loves Jake or Andrew more and, even more importantly, whether she loves her fabulous SoHo loft in New York more than her mom and dad's (Mary Kay Place and Fred Ward) double-wide trailer. Can she come home again? Well, as my grandpappy used to say: Does a bear shit in the woods?

Many comical scenes make it clear that home is where the heart is and Melanie's got the heart of a good ole girl. Naturally she prefers Pigeon Creek to New York City -- why, there's the Catfish Festival where everybody swigs on longnecks and dances to, you guessed it, "Sweet Home Alabama," and when you're tired of dancing, you can take a rest in the quaint (I kid you not) Coondog Cemetery. What's the matter? Ain't you never been to the South before? Why everybody's got a bloodhound moping around on the front porch and every town's got a coondog cemetery.

Melanie, better known to the town folk of Pigeon Creek as "Felony Melanie," was once jailed for rolling the sheriff's mama's tractor into the pond. Her mama and daddy keep plenty of baloney in the icebox and daddy, when he's not watching TV, likes to dress up in a confederate uniform and re-enact Civil War battles with the rest of the guys. He calls his little girl "sugar bean." It's just like the real South. I swanee.

Reese Witherspoon is so chipper and attractive that she almost carries Sweet Home Alabama off. But the actress, who swept us away with her brilliant performance as the bratty good girl in Election, is nowhere apparent here. That script demanded smart acting and a keen understanding of character. This script relies on pretty faces, cliches and soggy stereotypes. In the end, you don't care if Melanie comes home or not. You just want to get out of the theater before that blasted song starts again.

-- Kathryn Eastburn


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