Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

(On TV, December 2016) I’m not sure what irks me more about Sweet Home Alabama: the rom-com formula faithfully followed, the titular insistence on southern values being preferable to Yankee ones, the easily predictable plot points or the idiot comedy segments. It doesn’t help that the film features Reese Witherspoon in her bog-standard rom-com persona—I consider Witherspoon to be an entirely neutral value as an actress, and she contributes to the film’s blandness. To its credit, Sweet Home Alabama is only mildly annoying: the magic of genre romantic comedies is that they’re usually so sweet, positive and gentle that there is a fairly high floor to how bad they can get, and even if the result isn’t particularly good, it’s not overly offensive either. The closest it gets to obnoxiousness are the various ways in which the film opposes its New York characters to its Southern ones, invariably suggesting that rural is best. This being said, this real-America-is-not-coastal-urban-America attitude is a fairly common one in movies, so it’s been defanged by sheer overexposure. Otherwise, what’s left to say? Amusing set pieces, predictable mysteries, square-jawed performance by Josh Lucas as the suitably masculine romantic lead. It’s almost the very definition of an ordinary romantic comedy. At least you get what you expect from Sweet Home Alabama.

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