The 2002 romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama is about as well-known for Reese Witherspoon’s haircut, as it is for being a ridiculous southern romance replete with Civil War reenactments. The performances are a little too cutesy and the southern stereotypes are a little over-the-top, but the film holds a certain charm and is a good reminder of a time period when romantic comedies nearly always ensured a happy ending. More than anything, Sweet Home Alabama is dated, and it means I’m getting old.
Being dated isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a romantic comedy. Sleepless in Seattle is dated, especially with that spinning egg chair the two kids hang out in, but this doesn’t make the movie any less watchable. In that same vein, You’ve Got Mail’s Internet chat sensibilities mark that movie as coming from a very specific time. Other than the fashion sensibilities present in Sweet Home Alabama and the specific bent of the film—which for chrissakes features one of the most apparent romantic comedy men of the early 2000s, Patrick Dempsey—Sweet Home Alabama holds up pretty well.
The film follows Melanie Smooter Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), who has everything going for her, including a popular fashion line and the fiancé-of-her dreams (Patrick Dempsey). There’s only one snag in the way of her fairytale ending: her husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), whom she left nearly seven years ago. It’s plausible this film could end ten minutes after it started, with Jake signing the damn divorce papers and Melanie moving on with her life. However, as Bobby Ray aptly notes a third of the way into the movie, “You can take the girl out of the honky tonk, but you can't take the honky tonk out of the girl.”
Witherspoon is fun to watch as she sashays in and out of a southern accent and personality. Her chemistry with Lucas is there, too, and the lessons she must learn to get to who and where she wants to be never come off as forced. What does come off as a little forced is the culture clash from Melanie’s friends and her fiancé Andrew’s family. There’s a silly side plot where Andrew’s boring villain of a mother, Mayor Kate Hennings (Candice Bergen), determines her son’s fiancé is not good enough and will stop at nothing to defame her. Bergen’s character should be acerbic and witty, but instead she’s predictable and does little to move the story forward.
Despite that one side conflict that falls short, there’s little wrong with Sweet Home Alabama’s story. Romantic comedies in this style have begun to fall out of fashion, but up until last month, Sweet Home Alabama held the box office record for a movie opening in September. The film was eventually beat out by Hotel Transylvania, but it’s still an impressive record. The film has managed to come through a decade with its reputation intact, but the true test of time will certainly be the next decade. Will people continue to watch this flick in the 2020s? I’m not so sure.
The Blu-ray release marks the 10th anniversary of the film. I’m not usually a huge proponent of 10-year anniversary releases, but this is still a film that is pretty well-loved (in the heartland, at least) and probably deserves a Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, the extras won’t do a lot for fans.
The first bonus features on the disc are deleted scenes, but instead of calling them that, the disc calls them “Off the Cutting Room Floor.” It’s actually a pretty refreshing way to note deleted scenes, and each of these has an introduction from director Andy Tennant. Interestingly, there’s an entire subplot with an intern trying to get in good with Andrew in the extra footage that didn’t make the film.
There’s also the original ending to the film, which features a far classier reception, and a wacky premise, as well as the music video for “Mine All Mine.” The quality of the extras is definitely not up to par on Blu-ray. The picture is really fuzzy, but they are still pretty fun to watch. Unfortunately, the extras are retreads from the original DVD release. Thus, if you already own a copy of Sweet Home Alabama, there is no point in trading up for the Sweet Home Alabama: 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.
If you don’t own a copy of the film, the picture and the audio quality in the film itself are both good, and the Blu-ray release isn’t the type that will break your wallet. Copies only run at $20, and you can nab one, at a sale price, over at Amazon.