This romantic comedy begins in the style of melodramatic movie trailers, setting a theme that runs through the whole film poking fun at the movie industry itself.
Gwen and Eddie (Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack) were a legendary, widely-adored Hollywood couple who made multiple romantic films together, such as “Requiem for an Outfielder.” The couple has since split up, but to promote their last film together, publicist Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal) must trick the public into believing the two are back together. The illusion is necessary because the director, Hal Weidman (Christopher Walken, looking even more demented than usual), refuses to hand over the movie until the actual premier, so there will be nothing to actually review at the press junket. The exciting news of Eddie and Gwen”s reconciliation is supposed to provide enough distraction to cover up the fact that the movie is missing.
Complicating the plot are the restraining order that Gwen has against Eddie, Gwen”s new lover Hector (Hank Azaria), and the romantic feelings that Gwen”s personal assistant Kiki (Julia Roberts) has for Eddie. “America”s Sweethearts” is filled with scandals, betrayals and many selfish characters just like the film industry itself.
Other blurbs about the movie proclaim Kiki as being awkward, but she”s not she”s simply Roberts, more charming and attractive than ever. The difference here is that she”s de-glamorized, and therefore the most human character in the whole story, especially with the help of flashbacks to when she was sixty pounds heavier (just slightly heavier than the average woman). Makeup artists created a semi-convincing appearance for the overweight Kiki, though director Joe Roth and screenwriter Crystal overdo it a bit when they focus so much whether Kiki is eating or not eating.
Zeta-Jones is impressively self-centered through some of the movie, though in the beginning the actress does not seem to have a grasp on her role. Cusack is good, achieving occasional emotional extremes, as his character suffers from some mental instability. Crystal makes use of his standard style of humor, offering funny one-liners, though sometimes the jokes he wrote for himself are lifeless. Azaria is portrayed as a rather unpleasant Spanish bully/heartthrob/man-slut with a heavy, awkward accent and a selective lisp. His character was not created to be a sympathetic one, but he certainly adds some color and conflict to the plot.
The movie is entertaining, and the actors and actresses are nice to look at (there are lots of leather pants worn). It may have a particular draw for the local crowd, as Ann Arbor is mentioned more than once (admittedly, the second reference deals with Ted Kaczynski).
The romantic elements justify themselves and are satisfying. The general plot follows a typical style for romance, so it is fueled by longing on the part of Eddie and Kiki, though not always reciprocally.
Once the right people come together, the ending is abrupt. The characterization of many people highlights the dehumanizing aspects of the film industry through over-exaggeration (for instance, a producer contemplates an actor”s suicide as a possible moneymaking scheme). The film does not, however, call into question the fact that a standard Hollywood romance film must end when the true romance begins. The happy ending is just that when the characters are happy, the credits must roll.