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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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


    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.


    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.


    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


    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.


    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


    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
  2. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

    Apr 9, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Chris S
    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.

    Chris S.
  3. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

    Aug 23, 2002
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    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. [​IMG]
  4. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    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. Iain Lambert

    Iain Lambert Screenwriter

    Jun 7, 1999
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    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.
  6. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

    Apr 29, 2000
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    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!
  7. Jamie Cole

    Jamie Cole Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 8, 1999
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    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.
  8. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    I lived in Alabama for a while (in Huntsville) and my impression was that all the people outside Huntsville were your assorted Alabama stereotypes.
  9. Chad A Wright

    Chad A Wright Supporting Actor

    Jul 22, 2002
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    I actually enjoyed the movie quite a lot.
  10. Jamie Cole

    Jamie Cole Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 8, 1999
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  11. Richard Waller

    Richard Waller Second Unit

    Oct 24, 2001
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    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. Larry Bevil

    Larry Bevil Second Unit

    Jun 18, 1999
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    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. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

    Apr 19, 2000
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  14. WilliamG

    WilliamG Supporting Actor

    Aug 6, 2001
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    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. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  15. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    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. Matt Birchall

    Matt Birchall Supporting Actor

    Feb 22, 2000
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    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. [​IMG]
  17. DarrenA

    DarrenA Second Unit

    Aug 30, 2000
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  18. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

    Feb 12, 2002
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  19. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Jun 20, 2000
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    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.
  20. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    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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