Sweet Home Alabama
Nothing too sweet 'bout this
By Rachel Deahl

This photo is more befitting of a Tommy Hilfiger or Polo ad.

A romantic comedy, sans much of the comedy, this clunky Reese Witherspoon vehicle glows with the powerful allure of its shiny, irresistible young star but little else. A rote tale about a country bumpkin who reinvents herself in the big city, Sweet Home Alabama has the necessary plot devices for a cheery chick flick, but none of the sharp dialogue needed to support it. And although Witherspoon glides through the awkward script with surprising ease, her presence never totally masks the collapsing film around her.

If scenarios and storylines alone were enough to make middling cinema, Sweet Home Alabama would have the stuff of mediocrity. The Cinderella tale begins in Manhattan where up-and-coming fashion designer Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) is preparing for her first big show. Cute, perky, and successful Melanie doesn't just have a great career, she's also got the hottest bachelor in town by her side-the handsome son of the mayor, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey). When the up-and-coming politico pops the big question, fittingly in Tiffany's with the phrase 'pick one' as his final dreamy directive, Melanie is set to ride off into the sunset, or skyline, as it were. Ah, if only she didn't already have an irksome, but lovable, husband back in Alabama.

Determined to commit to life in the Big Apple, Melanie flies back to the heartland to demand a divorce from her high school sweetheart, Jake (Josh Lucas). Of course, when the Southern belle gets back on home soil, she's reminded of all the people she left behind, especially her former self. Fixated on erasing the memory of her rags to riches, Melanie confronts the lies she's told in New York and the life she ran out on in Alabama.

Unsure how to make its country bumpkins both laughable and lovable, Sweet Home Alabama gets rolling with a series of failed white trash jokes only to turn around and champion the lure of the double wide. The awkward collision of upper-crust New York society with low-income, small town Americana never produces the laughs it's supposed to and what we're left with is a strange version of Father of the Bride by way of Jeff Foxworthy.

Strangely enough, the filmmakers seemed more interested in the Gatsby-like qualities of their central couple (she's lied about her past in the process of reinventing herself while he's remade himself into a wealthier man for the sole purpose of winning her back) than in cultivating the usual seeds of their genre. The wedding cakes, marriage proposals, long overdue kisses, and throwaway romantic one-liners come all too late here-making this outing more obligatory than enjoyable