Here is an example of a film where the audience needs to buy into one scene to go along with the rest of the movie. Not only did I not buy into this scene, I thought the whole movie seemed ridiculous as a result of how ineptly said scene was handled. Unfortunately, that's the least of this film's problems. "This film" being "The Sweetest Thing", the new film from once- promising director Roger Kumble, who had previously directed "Cruel Intentions", which I liked, as well as its straight-to-video sequel - the less said about which, the better.
"The Sweetest Thing" is elevated a few notches above a mess by its lead actresses, who are fairly energetic and rather likable. Christina (Cameron Diaz) and Courtney (Christina Applegate) are two young professionals who go clubbing at night and - well, that's all we're really told about them. One night, Christina tries to set recently dumped friend Jane (Selma Blair) up with a random guy named Peter (Thomas Jane). At first, she insults him for having to have to leave, but the two run into each other once again and she starts to fall for him.
This is the sequence I'd previously been discussing in the first paragraph. The two are forced by the screenplay to fall for one another - there's no sparks, no nothing between the two. It's an awkwardly handled meet cute that goes on too long without anything happening. Christina believes that Peter is serving as the best man at his brother's wedding in a small town about three hours away, so it's Courtney who drags her up off the couch and into the car. Obviously, it's only a matter of time until we reach a usual "romantic comedy" ending. It's just that I've never really experienced a romantic comedy whose entire middle is simply badly written padding.
See one particular sequence where the two girls visit a dress shop (they had to strip down to their underwear, of course, given that a toilet in a really gross bathroom exploded on them - it's just that kind of movie) and Courtney says - and I quote - "do we have time for a movie montage?" It's a forced, cringe-worthy line. The two girls try on lots of different outfits and mug for the camera - ok, maybe worth a chuckle for about a second - but the sequence goes on and on and on and on for a ridiculous amount of time (even ripping off "Dumb and Dumber" two or three times) until it's no longer amusing or even unfunny - it's irritating.
Some wonder how the Farrelly Brothers are able to (well, usually) make successful gross-out comedies. Their jokes usually seem unforced and natural to the plot - the characters slide into the situation rather than be pushed and pulled around to make the joke work. "The Sweetest Thing" cranks out the gross-out jokes and none of them are very funny, making the film feel desperate for a laugh. The ending, which has what looks to be the entire neighborhood singing along with Jane to get herself out of a bad situation, isn't funny to begin with, but the whole sing-along aspect of it is idiotic and overdone.
This is absolutely not a good movie, but the one aspect that keeps it from jumping off into total awfulness is the three leads. Diaz is underrated and has really become a wonderful comedic talent - a beautiful girl not afraid to make herself look like an idiot in the name of comedy. She's got terrific comedic timing and she really, really deserves better than this. Applegate isn't as successful, but Diaz and Applegate have good chemistry together, which is fairly important because their road trip is the majority of the film. Blair, who can be utterly hilarious, is wasted in the worst kind of role in this kind of film - a character whose existence seems to be purely to skip from utter embarassment to utter embarassment.
Kumble, who I believe admitted on the "Cruel Intentions" commentary that he'd never filmed anything before that, does not display any sort of skill in directing comedy. On the other hand, I doubt many directors could have found much to work with in Nancy M. Pimental ("South Park")'s screenplay, which is surprisingly unfunny for someone involved with the occasionally very sharp and clever "Park".
Note: Columbia/Tristar is offering both "Rated" (R) and "Unrated" versions of the film on DVD (both could have fit on one disc, but oh well). The "Unrated" runs about 6-minutes longer.
VIDEO: Columbia/Tristar presents "Sweetest Thing" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Anthony Richmond's cinematography has to find it's way around a few phony-looking sets, but the outdoor scenes capture some attractive locations. The transfer presents the material fairly well; the picture quality isn't flawless, but when it looks good, it looks very good. Sharpness and detail are very pleasing, as while the picture doesn't have much depth, detail was at least pretty solid.
Flaws are noticable, but they didn't really effect the viewing experience terribly. Some minor - but noticable - instances of pixelation were spotted and a few scenes had a rather "digital" appearance. The print used also had a few moments where specks and some slight dirt were visible. On a positive note, edge enhancement was thankfully kept to a minimum.
The film's bright, vivid color palette was nicely reproduced, as colors looked well-saturated and clean, with no smearing. Black level was also strong, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: "Sweetest Thing" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack offers a fine definition of a rather uninteresting "comedy audio" presentation. The front speakers do almost all the work here, with the surrounds only occasionally throwing in a little music or slight ambience.
MENUS: Nicely animated main menu with images from the picture used as backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Roger Kumble, actor Jason Bateman, actress Cameron Diaz, actress Christina Applegate and actress Selma Blair. This certainly isn't a terribly informative track, but like all "party" commentaries, this one is quite funny at times. Certainly a first, a helium tank has apparently been supplied to the participants, who either make farting noises or talk after taking a few hits of helium. The commentary is often funnier than the movie itself, as the actresses seem aware of the kind of film this is and occasionally goof on it quite amusingly.
A Day in the Life of Nancy Pimental: A documentary parody, this has writer Pimental and her friends discussing Pimental's way of going about creating characters. Given that the writer was paid an extraordinary amount for what was considered a script for "Sweetest Thing", I found this attempt at humor depressing. The documentary goes on for 20 very long minutes.
Also: An 8 1/2 minute making of, storyboard comparisons for 2 scenes, filmographies and trailers for "Sweetest Thing", "Mr. Deeds", "Charlie's Angels", "Cruel Intentions" and "Enough".
Final Thoughts: "Sweetest Thing" wastes a fine cast on weak material; while there's a few minor laughs scattered throughout, much of it is either filler or desperate attempts at raunchy humor that fall flat. Columbia/Tristar Home Video's DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality and entertaining supplements. Fans of the film will enjoy the DVD edition, but those who haven't seen it and are still interested should try a rental first.
The Film * 1/2