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HTF REVIEW: "Sweet Home Alabama" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 22 Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 23 2003 - 11:45 AM

Posted Image

Sweet Home Alabama

Studio: Touchstone
Year: 2002
Rated: PG-13
Film Length: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English

Sometimes What You're Looking For
Is Right Where You Left It

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There's no doubt that Reese Witherspoon is one
of the cutest talents in Hollywood these days,
having charmed us in such films as Election
and Legally Blonde. On the surface, her
latest effort, Sweet Home Alabama seemed to
be yet another charming vehicle for this actress.
Unfortunately, the film never really rises above
being mediocre.

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Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), is a
successful fashion designer living in New York
who is engaged to be married to the Mayor’s
(Candice Bergen) son (Patrick Dempsey) whom
she appears to be madly in love with. There's
just one small detail that needs to be resolved
before she takes her vows -- get a divorce from
her stubborn husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), who
lives deep in the heart of Alabama.

Melanie is no stranger to Alabama. It is her
former home state. It is where at the age of 10
she met her childhood sweetheart who she now seeks
a divorce from. They were married right out of
high school, but seven years ago she left to make
a better life for herself in the big city and
she's never looked back since. Now that's she's
back in Alabama, it doesn't take her long to cozy
up to some of the things she left behind -- including

This tolerable formula movie succeeds only for the
fact that Witherspoon is so cute to watch. The
problem is, everyone else isn't. The movie is filled
with quirky redneck characters who you could care
little about, and there isn't really a solid laugh
to be found anywhere in this film that runs way
too long for its own good. I mean, this entire
film is about a girl who has to choose between
two guys, and frankly, I think most people could
care less about which one she chooses. It's a
sort of tired formula that runs out of steam fast.

How is the transfer?

The transfer is just great. I'm not one who
prefers soft picture, but that is obviously the
look that director Andy Tennant was going for, and
that is exactly the kind of transfer you get. Because
of this, images aren't overly sharp or detailed,
but this transfer still remains above average
with accurate color display and clean background.

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Starting with crisp, bass-heavy audio and excellent
stereo separation across the front channels, this
5.1 mix is quite sensational. The rears do an
exhaustive job of supporting this film's soundtrack.
You'll love the way George Fenton's score and
pop tracks by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Shannon
McNally, Avril Lavigne, Shedaisy and Ronnie Van
Zant just wrap themselves around the rear channels,
creating a toe-tapping musical environment. Even
the film's effect noises that include thunder that
dominates the start and ending of the film, to the
noise of crowds that pack the bars and street
festivals, come through with satisfying clarity and

Special Features

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Disney has obviously put an effort into putting
together a handful of extras for its Supplemental
area, but it's not hard to notice the absence of
both a behind-the-scenes featurette and the film's
original trailer.

So what do we get?

First ip is a full-length commentary by
director Andy Tennant. Right off the bat it was
amazing to hear how Hollywood movie magic transformed
a sunny crowded beach into what we see in the first
scene of the film. You really have to listen to what
this beach originally looked like and what the
filmmakers did in order to create this very magical
stormy-skied moment. And yes, folks, that jewelry
store scene was actually filmed in a real jewelry
store with real employees. One of the toughest
jobs for this director was shooting many of the
house scenes that were shot on location. Since the
rooms in the houses were small, it left very little
room for the large team of filmmakers to move about.
It took days just to properly block scenes that
lasted a only a few minutes. Then they had to deal
with the worst actor in the film -- the dog! Andy
Tennant seems to be a really nice guy with a very
warming voice, and he gladly takes us scene-by-scene
describing particular camera shots as well as some
scenes that had to fall by the wayside (such as a
rehearsal dinner that involved the Mayor, a beer can,
and a chicken). From the bits and pieces I heard,
this commentary sounds very informative.

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Off The Cutting Room Floor consists of 8
deleted scenes from the film. Each deleted scene
contains a video introduction from director Andy
Tennant. Andy explains that many of the initial
test screenings greatly helped to shape this film.
A female character had to be deleted because her
relationship with the Patrick Dempsey was
misunderstood by audiences. The director felt that
while some scenes were good, they slowed the
pace of the film somewhat -- such is a case with
a scene at the beginning of the film where
Melanie's fashion show gets panned by the critics.
A humorous scene that comes at the film's finale
was ultimately removed because it conflicted with
the emotional level of the film. I can't say
any of these scenes really add much to the movie,
but it is interesting to hear Tennant explain
his logic for their removal.

In the film's alternate ending, director
Andy Tennant once again reveals how important the
opinions of test audiences are. I think you'll agree
with Tennant that this original ending is just a
little too devastating, although it really tried
to be humorous.

Finally, you can watch the film's Music Video,
Mine All Mine by SHeDAISY.

Final Thoughts

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There's really nothing new or exciting about Sweet
Home Alabama
, though Reese Witherspoon is such a
radiating presence here, the film somehow keeps its
head above water. I wouldn't say this is a totally
bad film -- in fact it has enough redeeming qualities
to it that it probably would make a great date flick.
I'd be very careful, however, recommending a blind
purchase to anyone.

Release Date: February 4, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 22 Chris S

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Posted January 23 2003 - 01:56 PM

Thanks for the review! My wife loved this film so I will probably be picking it up for her and it's very likely I'll be forced to watch it. Heck, for all the times she's watched my "boy movies" I think I'll be okay watching just one of hers.

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#3 of 22 Chris Farmer

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Posted January 23 2003 - 02:38 PM

Chirs, beg steal or borrow your way out of it. I ended up seeing it in a group (there were more girls then boys, and the choice was SHA or Ballistic), and a, I want the 2+ hours of my life back, and b, the guy sitting next to me was far funnier, and was so consistently. Posted Image

#4 of 22 Adam_S



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Posted January 23 2003 - 05:08 PM

funny, I was about to say that Chris was in for a treat, as this is a quite funny and at times touching romantic comedy. If your wife likes movies like Sleepless in Seattle, and You've got Mail, this film continues THAT tradition of excellent writing and sincere (and imho) wonderful acting. I have a few quibbles with the film, but ultimately consider it one of the more satisfying romantic comedies I've seen in a while and one of this year's guilty pleasures (hey if guys can like dumb, formula action movies, we can like formula romances as well (at least I can); the romances btw, have much better writing than XXX or Armageddon).

This is a fun and sweet movie. I'm not surprised Ron didn't like it, it didn't play nearly as well in urban areas, especially new England and the west coast it seems. [teasing]I guess you durn folks gets upset when not 100% of movies released don't take place on either coast! With only coastal natives as the main characters![/teasing]~


#5 of 22 Iain Lambert

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Posted January 24 2003 - 12:55 AM

Well, my wife and I really liked this in the cinema as well, and I placed my order last night. Mainly, its such a wonderfully refreshing change to not have the 'other guy' be such a complete asshole that the dilemma isn't really one at all.

Plus a lot of the comedy hit the spot for me; they certainly didn't leave out the "com" part of the rom-com. I'm sorry that it didn't work for you, Ron, but Fred Ward in particular did a great job, I thought.
mmm, thats odd.

#6 of 22 BrianB



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Posted January 24 2003 - 12:58 AM

This is a must buy in our household. My wife's a huge fan of Reese & loved this film - so much so, I even picked up one of the fashion board props from the early part of the film as a gift for her.

I personally thought Legally Blonde was a better showcase for Reese's talent, but there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than watching this film. Thanks for the review, Ron!
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#7 of 22 Jamie Cole

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Posted January 24 2003 - 06:47 AM

I'm always, ALWAYS amused -- and often offended -- at the depiction of Alabama in films. It's always either backwoods, redneck heaven or a city with dusty streets and racist old men in rocking chairs. "Sweet Home" wasn't all that offensive to me as an "Alabama" film, even though no one outside the state seems to know that we're not all country boys and rednecks. Anyway, I rather enjoyed the movie and my wife loved it, so it will be a must-buy in my house.

I can tell you that here in Birmingham (a metro area of around a million and a half people where all the streets are paved) the movie premiered at the Alabama Theater's Sidewalk Film Festival and people just loved it.
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#8 of 22 Dan Rudolph

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Posted January 24 2003 - 06:53 AM

I lived in Alabama for a while (in Huntsville) and my impression was that all the people outside Huntsville were your assorted Alabama stereotypes.
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#9 of 22 Chad A Wright

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Posted January 24 2003 - 02:53 PM

I actually enjoyed the movie quite a lot.

#10 of 22 Jamie Cole

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Posted January 27 2003 - 05:26 AM

I lived in Alabama for a while (in Huntsville) and my impression was that all the people outside Huntsville were your assorted Alabama stereotypes.

Thank you, Dan, for that. I'll refrain from talking about my trip to beautiful Cedar Rapids in December. Posted Image
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#11 of 22 Richard Waller

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Posted February 06 2003 - 04:03 AM

I just watched this last night on my Malata and it looked like I saw signs of the red chroma bug. I checked another movie immediately after this one and it didn't show any signs. Anyone else notice any problems?

#12 of 22 Larry Bevil

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Posted February 06 2003 - 06:42 AM

I picked up the video from CC the other day and watched it last night. I, along with several other people, have noticed a problem with the sub-titles popping up every so often. In my case, I had to keep turning them off on my JVC 502SL. This appears to be a glitch on the dvd, or at least for several types of players.

#13 of 22 Colin Jacobson

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Posted February 06 2003 - 12:40 PM

I personally thought Legally Blonde was a better showcase for Reese's talent, but there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than watching this film.

Too bad the movie was 108 minutes...Posted Image
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#14 of 22 WilliamG


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Posted February 15 2003 - 04:43 AM

Well, I rented this one last night (Valentine's Day) for my wife and 17-yr.old daughter. SEVERAL 'laugh out loud' moments for us. I feel, as do several others here, that it's the least I could do for my family since they have to put up with my 'guy flicks' (T2, The Fast and The Furious, etc.). I ended up liking it as well. Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

#15 of 22 Mark Bendiksen

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Posted February 16 2003 - 06:28 AM

Well, someone from work loaned me their copy and I watched it yesterday.

The movie? Contrived. Predictable. Lame. Grating.

The disc? Nice transfer. At least the movie was pretty to look at.

Yesterday was redeemed, however, when I went to the theatre to see a truly amazing film: About Schmidt.

#16 of 22 Matt Birchall

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Posted February 16 2003 - 06:44 AM

I refuse to buy this movie, even with The Reese Witherspoon Factor and it's stranglehold grip over me.

Maybe I'll just go watch Election again. She was hotter in that, anyway. Posted Image

#17 of 22 DarrenA


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Posted March 02 2003 - 03:13 PM

choice was SHA or Ballistic

So you saw SHA instead of Ballistic and you think that was a bad choice? If you saw Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (which has one of the worst movie titles in a long time) you'd be thanking your lucky stars that you saw Sweet Home Alabama instead.

As for the video transfer of Sweet Home Alabama, it was decent but a little too soft and too much mosquito noise in the background.
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#18 of 22 Jenna


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Posted March 06 2003 - 03:00 PM

...a problem with the sub-titles popping up every so often...

The copy I rented also had the problem with the subtitle popping up about 3-4 times during the film. My Sony DVD player has NEVER done this before with any of the 600+ DVDs in my collection. I also overheard another rental customer complain that the copy HE got played the subtitles almost through the entire movie.

I (luckily) only rented this movie. It was OK - one of those DVDs that you're glad you saw, not because it was "good" but so you no longer have to wonder about renting it or buying it in the future. (Kind of takes it off the "to do" list.) It was cute, but blandly so. Also, they made her parents almost "too country/hick" to be believeable. Like they'd RATHER she stay married to her "redneck/country" husband, than to find a successful career and marry a wealthy man from NYC. Yeah right! Every parent's dream for their only daughter. NOT!

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#19 of 22 JohnRice


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Posted March 14 2003 - 04:16 PM

As a hard core Reese fan, I'd like to encourage some of you to venture past Legally Blonde and even Election, though anyone who hasn't seen Election needs to. A lot here know that The Man in the Moon is a favorite of mine and Reese is nothing short of outstanding in it. Wildflower is her second film and is similar to Man in several ways. It is quite good, but is also a cable movie, and shows it. You can also venture to see Freeway, which is a very dark, more than a little twisted comedy updating Little Red Riding Hood. Reese is an outstanding actor, with dramatic skills that far outreach her recent roles.

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#20 of 22 Dan Rudolph

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Posted March 15 2003 - 03:26 AM

My parent's player (which is a Sony) also had problems with subtitles coming on for one line several times. Was fine in my players.
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