Sweet Home Alabama

As a Yankee who spent six years in Alabama, I was hoping this Reese Witherspoon comedy might convey something of the complicated social fabric I witnessed down there, but no dice—this is the usual cartoon of hound dogs, roadhouses, antebellum mansions, and Civil War reenactments. Aside from that, it's not a bad date movie, carried along by the star's squeaky-clean charm and a magnetic performance by Josh Lucas. An up-and-coming fashion designer in Manhattan (Witherspoon) wants to marry a JFK Jr. clone (Patrick Dempsey) whose bitchy mother (Candice Bergen) is the mayor of New York, but first she has to revisit the hometown she despises and win a divorce from her no-account husband (Lucas). Eventually she learns to respect her roots, though in narrative terms this means little more than exchanging one stereotype (ignorant rednecks) for another (good country people). Most of the jokes are predicated on the idea that southern life is hopelessly provincial, but the folks I knew were at the mercy of mainstream culture—whenever I had a hankering to see a good movie, I usually wound up at a mall watching something like this. Andy Tennant directed. 102 min.

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