The Sweetest Thing (2001)

Directed by Roger Kumble

This movie is a mixed bag and, as one reviewer pointed out, probably works best if you’re inebriated (one way or another).

Just as Pulp Fiction spawned a slough of knock-offs that didn’t really understand why that movie worked, and hence we’re filled with pointless violence and obnoxious characters, so There’s Something About Mary has led to a series of films that seem to think crudity is the heart of great comedy. Crudity, of course, isn’t funny; it’s just crude.

The reason it works in a movie like There’s Something About Mary is because it isn’t the focus of the film, it is just an element that grows out of the story. It works when it does because it is unexpected and seems to follow naturally, and comedically, from the situation. It’s also, when you look at it, not nearly as extreme as you think. If you recall Mary’s hair gel error from the movie, you may also remember that the film doesn’t really linger on the joke. It plays, gets its laugh, and moves on quickly with the story.

In The Sweetest Thing jokes such as this are beaten senseless, dragged through the streets, then hung up for public display in the centre of town. In other words, its comedic sensibility s that of a bad, drunken wedding MC.

Despite this, there are some very funny moments in the movie. The problem is, the movie knows where these moments are and milks them until they are comepletely dead. It has no sense for pacing; no sense for balance. It’s like a comedian who delivers a funny line that gets a laugh and then repeats it and repeats it until all the laughing is gone. Only then does he (or she) move on to the next joke.

Contributing to this lack of balance is the movie’s inability to see comedy as anything more than fart jokes (or penis jokes, or semen jokes etc.). Again, there is no balance. It’s incredibly juvenile humor which we’re supposed to think is funnier than it is because it’s women doing it this time, not men. We’re supposed to be surprised because the public, men especially, aren’t aware of how “raw” women can be. Good heavens … Talk about taking your audience for idiots.

Selma Blair (middle) here appears to be the only one that has actually watched the movie.

The real frustration with this movie, however, is how good it is despite its moronic and insulting approach. All three of the women leads (Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair) give tremendous performances and demonstrate great comic abilities. And this is something given what they’re working with. (Or rather what they don’t have to work with.) It is thoroughly enjoyable watching them and there are wonderfully funny moments in the movie that are the direct result of how they play them. (In the cases of Applegate and Blair, you have to hope that one day they’ll get material that was equal to their talents.)

You have to wonder, though, what these actors were thinking when they signed on to this sceptic tank of a movie. This film seems obsessed with finding new ways to humiliate them, especially Selma Blair. I wish someone would give her a decent script so she didn’t have to keep being the scapegoat in stupid films like this.

The movie probably would have worked better if it didn’t keep over-selling its vulgar jokes and, maybe more to the point, didn’t rely so heavily on them to carry the film but rather had developed a stronger, more credible story line (the Cameron Diaz character’s romantic relationship). This would have balanced the comedy better and carried the film more firmly when the comedy sagged. (Referring again to There’s Something About Mary, it’s the quest of Ben Stiller’s character that carries the film and from which the comedy develops, it’s not just a series of comic scenes with a weak storyline thrown in.)

Looking at the DVD, the image is excellent as is the sound. The special features are lame, however. There’s a “making of” featurette that really doesn’t tell you much about anything. Then there’s an absolutely dreadul mock-documentary called “A Day in the Life of Nancy M. Pimental” (the writer of the script). What in the world were they thinking of when they threw this piece of shit on the disc? It’s like a really bad home movie. It’s a tongue in cheek thing but … why? How it got on the disc of a major release baffles me.

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