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America's Sweethearts

Director:Joe Roth
Writers:Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan
Columbia; PG-13; 100 minutes
Cast:John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Crystal, Julia Roberts

America's Sweethearts is true to its title: the movie stars Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and John Cusack. Furthermore, director Joe Roth (Revenge of the Nerds II) is better known for running 20th Century Fox and Disney Studios. Rather predictably, the movie is a self-contented satire of Hollywood publicity and the fame machine from those deep within it. Herein lies the problem: a good satire can never be content; satire requires good old-fashioned dissent to stay sharp.

Cusack and Zeta-Jones play a blockbuster Hollywood couple whose failing real-life marriage results in plummeting box-office earnings. Billy Crystal is the spin doctor who decides to simulate a reconciliation in time for their latest release. Reliably weird Christopher Walken steals his few scenes as Hal Weidmann, freakish director of the couple's new movie.

America's Sweethearts is a world apart from Woody Allen's joyless and self-indulgent Celebrity. But it lacks the edge of the recent, similarly themed The Anniversary Party. At times the movie strains toward romantic comedy, which might account for its overall softness and lack of definition. With Crystal at the script's helm, America's Sweethearts should provide the audience with more candy.

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