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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Sweethearts too close to home
Cusack and Zeta-Jones (photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, PA)
John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Hollywood's golden couple
By the BBC's Caroline Westbrook

There is a lot to like about this high profile romantic comedy - a great looking cast, a Billy Crystal-penned script (which generally avoids the lowest common denominator) and a clever sense of self-knowing.

But you cannot help feeling that the end result is somehow just too polished for its own good.

America's Sweethearts is the latest in a long line of comedies which appear to have rolled straight off a Hollywood conveyor belt.

It is by no means unwatchable, but you cannot help thinking that, given the talent involved, those concerned could have come up with something a little less bland.

Zeta-Jones and John Cusack star as a married but estranged Hollywood golden couple, Gwen Harrison and Eddie Thomas, who once ruled the box office with their many onscreen partnerships (shown in an opening montage that is one of the best moments in the film).

Billy Crystal also wrote the film's script (photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, PA)
Billy Crystal is the publicist with matchmaking in mind
Since the split she has attempted to save her flagging career while he has decamped to the mountains to recover from a breakdown.

When the press junket for the release of their latest film looms, and the movie's eccentric director (Christopher Walken in a priceless cameo) refuses to hand over the finished film, it doesn't look good.

Publicist Lee (Crystal) realises the only way to wriggle out of the situation is to reunite the pair at the launch - in the hope of deflecting press attention from the apparent lack of movie.

Except Eddie's got other things on his mind - namely Gwen's sister Kiki (Roberts), who also happens to be her personal assistant.

Julia Roberts (Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon, PA)
Roberts cannot look plain no matter how hard she tries
Roberts is as sparkling as ever here, despite the fact that she is playing Zeta-Jones' put-upon, supposedly "dumpy" sibling.

Rather predicatably, the age-old Hollywood trick of making her look dumpy by having her wear glasses is completely ineffectual - she simply looks like Julia Roberts in a pair of specs.

Similarly, flashback sequences involving an overweight incarnation of her character merely look like Julia Roberts with slightly wider hips.

Zeta-Jones also handles the material well, as does Cusack who is fast cementing a reputation as an offbeat romantic lead.

It is pleasant enough viewing, which tries to recreate the sharp-witted screwball comedy of Hollywood's golden age, but never captures the spirit that Hepburn and Tracy would have injected into proceedings had they made this film 50 years ago.

If you have seen everything else that is on, you could do worse - but don't expect to be bowled over.

America's Sweethearts is released in the UK on Friday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Film critic Bob McCabe
"It's a really well cast film"
Julia Roberts
"Everybody is just so good at what they're executing"
Catherine Zeta Jones
"There's no way that I am this character"
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