Sweet Home Alabama

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Is Miss Witherspoon destined and doomed to be Reese Withering-Away in the shallow lands of vacuous blondes? Someone help her, please! Now she’s trapped in a filmic funnel cloud where My Fair Lady strangles Breakfast at Tiffany’s while twisting and twanging around the cast of “Hee Haw,” Lynyrd Skynyrd licks and a few pickup trucks.

Melanie Carmichael, or Smooter, depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon line you’re on, has left her drawl behind and made a haute couture name for herself in the Big fashionable Apple. Her publicly prominent boyfriend, Drew (Patrick Dempsey), son of the mayor (Candice Bergen, who basically plays Murphy Brown), showers her in rose petals and a wedding proposal only possible in the movies. She’s got it all, except that darn divorce from the hick husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), back home.

We all know how the movie’s going to end up, but that sure doesn’t keep it from vacillating for a full two hours. Will she pick the mayor’s perfect rich son, or her still-in-the-South, still-in-her-heart, married-straight-out-of-high school husband? Hmmm.

It’s painful to watch Witherspoon’s talents wasting away inside unnecessary films like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Abomination, I mean, Alabama. Anyone who’s seen Election or Freeway is a witness to Reese’s wide-ranging spectrum of emotional elasticity and comic expertise. After breathing life into Tracy Flick and Vanessa Lutz, two characters with egos raised by wolves, any roles demanding less from her abilities are inevitably disappointing — like Melanie. Midway through the film, she sinks into a big-city-girl, martini-stupid stupor and insults her whole hometown, then spends the rest of the film apologizing to each and everyone one of them personally.

There are a few cuddly moments between Witherspoon and Lucas (a poor man’s Matthew McConaughey), but they continually stall out, turning Alabama into a marriage, and a movie, that refuses to die.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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