ZERO STARS/**** Image B+ Sound B Extras B-
starring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Thomas Jane, Selma Blair
screenplay by Nancy M. Pimental
directed by Roger Kumble
by Walter Chaw Roger Kumble's The Sweetest Thing presents a good news/bad news situation. On the one hand, it's barely eighty minutes long--on the other, for those eighty minutes it's repugnant beyond words. On the one hand, the worst film of 2002 has already appeared with eight months to go, and on the other, I not only had to watch the benighted thing, I am now required by my vocation to relive it in detail. I am forced, for instance, to remember a scene in which the only Jewish Laundromat owner in all of San Francisco's Chinatown tastes a semen stain to determine that it's such; to recall the moment where a woman with a penis stuck in her throat mumbles Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" to clear her air passage. Yes, The Sweetest Thing is crass and moronic, this much goes without saying (that Cameron Diaz plays another emetic simpleton is also not much of a surprise). What is a shock is that Parker Posey cameos late in the game and even she's not funny. If it takes a brilliant director to make a bad actor look good, the corollary holds, too.
Ex-"Win Ben Stein's Money" host Nancy Pimental's excrescent screenplay doesn't help: Jolly dumb sluts Christina (Diaz) and Courtney (Christina Applegate) live for clubbing and the promise of the one-night stand. It's A Night at the Roxbury with cheap women who actually get laid with day-clinic regularity. The Sweetest Thing defines the "new feminism" in which women, Spice Girls- and Britney Spears-like, give men exactly what they want, but on their own terms. Sure, I'll wear that, and sure, I'll sleep with you: a strange kind of equality gleaned from the idea that one sex can make as destructive of choices as the other. Enter Peter (Thomas Jane--even the love interest's name becomes a dick joke), of course a real estate agent who is of course engaged but with whom of course the Diaz character falls in love after a thirty-second conversation.
End Julia Roberts-plot, begin gross-out road trip as Christina and Courtney saddle up and drive a few hours to interrupt Peter's nuptials. We get maggots, rest-stop glory holes, exploding urinals, Joan Rivers talking about a bowel movement, and a strange predilection for our heroines to writhe around together while soaking wet and losing their pants, all ending with a twenty-minute resolution that feel like it lasts two days at least. (Amend that to read "two excruciatingly insipid days.")
There is not one laugh in The Sweetest Thing; likewise, no contrivance or cliché goes unexploited. Diaz's performance is her worst--seeing as the actress has never been remotely any good in anything save The Mask (in which we didn't know any better), that's really saying something. Applegate, who spent ten years on "Married with Children", has the good sense to look embarrassed to be involved in this stillbirth. Selma Blair portrays yet another sexually-frustrated collection of gasps and eye-rolls, and the Heath Ledger-ish Thomas Jane sleepwalks through the entire production. In other words, Mr. Jane plays the audience surrogate.
The Sweetest Thing is a travesty of the highest order. I'm angry that I watched it, angry that others will watch it, and angry that some people saw fit to peddle this lifeless garbage upon a feckless demographic that it somehow underestimates. It's too clear that The Sweetest Thing is expressly for idiots who don't care what kind of sewage they shovel into their mental gullets to simulate sustenance. Admirers of this picture simply have no need. Should curiosity get the better of you and you find yourself one dark day at The Sweetest Thing, ask for your money back. It's not a loud message, but it's a message all the same: we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. Originally published: April 12, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Columbia TriStar releases The Sweetest Thing in unrated and R-rated editions, and this part of the review pertains to the former while Walter's write-up pertains to the latter. (Given that New Line put both versions of Storytelling on the same side of a dual-layered disc, I'm not sure why CT-S continues with their practice--begun with Saving Silverman--of issuing a separate DVD for each individual rating.) The Sweetest Thing's extra footage is indicated by asterisks on the case insert's chapter listing and in more specific terms by the commentary participants (director Roger Kumble plus actors Christina Applegate, Cameron Diaz, Selma Blair, and Jason Bateman), who are not necessarily any happier than we are to see the restoration of a vomitous spit-take. (The front cover calls the reinstated material "sexy.")
The yak-trackers are aided in their group discussion, I caution you, by a helium tank and balloons, which they use not only to pitch their voices higher but also to make farting noises into the microphone. Yet somehow I preferred ninety minutes of that to The Sweetest Thing: Blair is winningly frank ("I'm doing Merchant Ivory movies from now on") and self-deprecating, and since everybody was recorded after the film died a quick death at the box office, there are no delusions of grandeur on parade. J.M. Kenny's bonus featurettes are far less endearing. "A Day in the Life of Nancy M. Pimental" (20 mins.) casts professional actor Dash Mihok as The Sweetest Thing screenwriter's gay assistant Steve and still others as her pool boy, stalker, and so on. I dropped out as soon as I realized there were quotation marks around everything being said--the whole thing is as tone-deaf (and overlong) as a documentary parody made by high-school students, suggesting that Kenny should stay away from future comedic projects.
The other, more formal making-of "Politically Erect" (9 mins.) is mostly an EPK with expletives. Storyboard comparisons for the "motorcycle" and "bird" sequences, cast and crew filmographies, and trailers for The Sweetest Thing, Charlie's Angels, Cruel Intentions, Enough, Mr. Deeds, My Best Friend's Wedding, New Best Friend, Panic Room, and Wild Things round out The Sweetest Thing's unrated DVD. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer improves after a grainy, oversaturated start (colours remain a little too 'Columbia bold' throughout) while the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundmix is humdrum and another offender of the dreaded dance club anomaly: Shouldn't the music be competing with voices--rather than yielding to them--in San Francisco's hottest disco? Originally published: August 7, 2002.