"Sweet Home Alabama’ | VailDaily.com

"Sweet Home Alabama’

Wren Wertin

Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) and Jake (Josh Lucas) grew up in the same Alabama town. Soulmates by age 10, he’s the football star and she’s the beauty queen. They married straight out of high school and proceeded to have the proverbial rocky marriage such alliances are known for.

Dreaming of bigger things, she up and leaves him (and their dog, Bear) for the big city and a career in fashion design, where she meets the catch of a lifetime, Andrew (Patrick Dempsey). The mayor’s (Candice Bergen) son, he’s gorgeous, rich and crazy about Melanie. A fantastically romantic proposal that would have charmed the likes of Holly Golightly in a New York minute leaves the pair happily engaged. All Melanie has to do is finally convince Jake – whom nobody in her new life knows about – to give her a divorce. She’s been trying for the past seven years. And so it’s back to Alabama for her.

The film could have degenerated into a predictable heap of misinterpretations and near misses by way of “Three’s Company,” but director Andy Tennant opts for the road less traveled. Despite the fairy tale set-up and downright unbelievable plot turns, he makes it fun. Sure, there are a few Southern-isms that fall flatter than a flapjack, but there are also a few that hit the mark. We know where it’s going, but it’s an enjoyable ride. I laughed throughout the film, and the people in the theater laughed with me.

Kudos to Witherspoon who was able to play an ambitious dreamer with both bitchy and vulnerable sides. She’s not an easy person to adore – her faults start with a scathing tongue unconcerned with anybody else’s feelings – but there’s enough honkytonk in her spirit to carry her through.

Leading men Dempsey and Lucas aren’t faultless either. Jake helped bring on their marital woes, and Andrew seems a little too pleased with his mother’s irritation regarding the impending nuptials. Bergen hasn’t looked better, despite revisiting her uptight “Miss Congeniality” role with a political twist. All in all, the film is more realistic than Tennant’s previous fairy tale, “Ever After,” but only slightly. Of course, that’s beside the point.

“Whether you like it or not, there is one person meant for you,” said Tennant. “You can try to manufacture your own destiny, but love happens to you whether you want it to or not.”

It may not be that simple in real life, but this is Hollywood. “Sweet Home Alabama” is a fun, uncomplicated watch – entertaining escapism. It’s playing at Riverwalk Theatre in Edwards. Call 476-5661 for showtimes.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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