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Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon) is a small town girl who has become a successful New York fashion designer. Accepting the marriage proposal of Mayor's son Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), Melanie returns to her Alabama hometown to finalise a divorce from childhood sweetheart Jake (Josh Lucas). With Jake unwilling to grant a divorce and her old friends and family welcoming her visit with open arms, Melanie begins to question the prospect of life and marriage in the big city.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Any resemblance to reality is strenuously avoided in a piece of fluff made watchable by Reese Witherspoon. The blonde cookie with a sweet heart and the most formidable Texan twang in Tinseltown is too good to be appearing in lazy formula films like this but thank heavens she's here to save the day.†

If you're willing to accept a very contrived plot, cliched characters and a script you can practically mouth along with, Sweet Home Alabama does offer a few chuckles as fabulously successful New York fashion designer Melanie Carmichael hooks the hottest bachelor in town (Patrick Dempsey) and heads down home to Nowheresville Alabama to tidy up the loose ends of her previous life as lower-middle class white trash Melanie Smooter. Once she visits Ma and Pa Smooter (Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place) and re-connects with her old high school pals and estranged hubby Jake (Josh Lucas) we know poor old Patrick doesn't stand a chance because home-spun values and earthy wisdom are much more fulfilling than life in the upper echelons of New York society - right?†

Yes, according to a dreamy screenplay by C. Jay Cox that's aimed squarely at the 'sea change' nerve in urbanites ready to embrace the idea of the rumble in the concrete jungle. Take Melanie's home town for example; there's no ATM because it reduces the bank's personal contact with customers (!!!) and there's even widespread acceptance of her gay school friend Bobby Ray. Must be heaven. Witherspoon's bouncy charm and a nice bitchy turn by Candice Bergen as the Mayor of New York keep the momentum up and there's a funny scene involving Civil War re-enactments but this is pretty thin stuff that requires maximum suspension of disbelief to approach. If you're in that frame of mind this is worth the visit...just.

Special Features reviewed by Craig Miller:
A fairly average extras package delivers little in the way of interest or much insight into the film, but at least Andy Tennant offers brief explanations for each of the eight deleted scenes, approximately ten minutes of cut footage that really are better off on the cutting room floor. Most of them are scenes involving a parallel story line, that director Tennant took out of the film due to undesirable perceptions from test audiences who thought that a character, Erin, had slept with Andrew. This was not intended, so Erinís no more.

The awful original ending also shared the same fate, re-shot after an unfavourable test screening. And the filmmakers agreed: it was not funny.

The audio commentary with Tennant is a little on the dry side, with lengthy pauses disrupting the flow, and will only really be of any interest to those who really got into the film, as his bits about Reese, acting and filming anecdotes hardly make essential listening. Itís more a reprise of what was done, rather than a deeper exploration of either the filmís themes or its making. But then, itís not exceptionally novel in filmmaking style.

Published October 23, 2003

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CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Fred Ward, Candice Bergen

DIRECTOR: Andy Tennant

SCRIPT: C. Jay Cox

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Andy Tennant, Deleted scenes with directorís introduction, Original ending with directorís introduction, ďMine All MineĒ music video

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: (Retail) 17th October 2003

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