Sweet Home Alabama

dir. Tennant

Opens Fri Sept 27

Various Theaters

If you're thinking about watching Sweet Home Alabama--and I assume the thought crossed your mind if you're reading this review--I'd like to suggest some alternative uses of your time. Sharpen all the pencils in your collection and stick them through your eyes. Pull out every last nose hair with a pair of fingernail clippers. Use an electric drill to impale your eardrums. Any one of these activities would be a better use of two hours than this shit-on-a-stick waste of a lesson that's already been taught in one hackneyed comedy after another--namely, that poor white Southern folk are fat, dumb, and wear Jaclyn Smith, but the boys are hot and they ain't as stupid as city folk think, 'cause they have heart.

So here's the story: New York fashion designer Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) gets engaged to the mayor's son (Patrick Dempsey), but before they can marry, she has to divorce her secret white-trash Alabama husband, Jake (Josh Lucas). Melanie goes from fighting her past to reuniting with it. That's the end.

There was a time when Witherspoon had the sense not to get involved with David Spade-level doo-doo like this. Between the conniving characters she trotted out in Freeway and Election, and her naîve good girls in Fear and Cruel Intentions, Witherspoon knew how to play the sneaky little bitch and the innocent daddy's girl with equal charm. Her character in Sweet Home Alabama, however, is neither. Instead, we get a bland, "mature" socialite who's afraid of her Alabama roots--roots filled with Budweisers, reclining chairs, and young mothers--yet fades right back into them thanks to a rugged bad boy who--SURPRISE!--turns out not to be so white-trash in the end.

Pencils ready?