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The Sweetest Thing

  The Sweetest Thing
Cameron Diaz once again forgets to use hair gel

© 2002, Columbia
All Rights Reserved

For a film called "The Sweetest Thing" (IMDb listing), this picture sure isn't. Crammed with oral sex jokes, bodily fluid humor, genital piercings and the usual sort of R-rated ornaments no feature film should be without, "Sweetest Thing" is a little more sarcastic and smutty than the title promises. But don't fear, because this film, as opposed to all the other grossout comedies, is actually pretty darn funny.

The last thing in the world Christina (Cameron Diaz) wants is a boyfriend, but one night, out on the town with her friends Courtney (Christina Applegate) and Jane (Selma Blair, "Legally Blonde"), Christina meets Peter (Thomas Jane, "Deep Blue Sea"). Christina doesn't immediately fall for Peter, but she can't shake him out of her head. With the help of her friends, Christina embarks on a road trip to locate Peter at a family wedding, but naturally things don't go quite as planned.

Writer Nancy Pimental was paid a lot of money for "The Sweetest Thing," and I think she's earned it. She's written the best, bawdiest, funniest "Sex And The City" episode ever. "Sweetest" is like being thrown into the middle of a party with the hippest crowd known to man. You don't really know everybody's names, but the vibe of the place keeps you begging for more. The finished film is a little slapdash, not terribly thorough, and often doesn't have a clue what to do next, but it's extremely funny. Its high energy is contagious, and gets it through the less than pleasant romantic comedy moments safely. Pimental even has the skills to write anticipated grossout humor with some zest for a change. Honestly, you've seen one glory-hole joke, you've seen them all, but "Sweetest Thing" has just the right twinkle in its eye to make you forget that every godforsaken comedy this past year has done essentially the same things. They all want to shock the audience, but "Sweetest Thing" wants you to actually laugh too.

Of course, if this was my "Sweetest Thing," I don't think I would've asked Roger Kumble to direct. The filmmaker behind "Cruel Intentions" and, well... "Cruel Intentions 2," Kumble doesn't have the gifts, touches, or temperament for this type of comedy. While "The Sweetest Thing" has a lion's share of uproarious moments, the film often feels staged and kind of sitcomish. It doesn't help that Kumble peppers his cast with such TV stars such as Applegate ("Married With Children"), Jason Batemen (who for some inexplicable reason is a scream here) from "The Hogan Family," and Georgia Engle from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Kumble brings Pimental's script to life rather vividly, but his overall lack of finesse results in a film that ranges from the subtle (Christina's constant grooving), the silly (a mid-movie, self referential dress shop montage), the sick (Jane's dress stain that would make Monica Lewinsky wince) and the incredibly broad (watch as Courtney tries to use a men's room urinal). As individual parts, this makes for a great evening out with a fun, lighthearted movie. But Kumble tries to bind all these schools of comedy into a whole, and it makes him look silly, if not completely unprofessional. "The Sweetest Thing" should have been helmed by a director much more capable and willing to let the film play out where it needed to go rather than taking the scattershot route favored by Kumble.

Also on the well paid scale, star Cameron Diaz is a complete joy to behold in "Sweetest Thing." Always the center of attention with her lazy summer day charms and get-right-in-my-pocket cuteness, Diaz plays up her appeal ten fold here. Already a well established comedienne, Diaz cruises right through Pimental's gauntlet of gags with the ease of a seasoned pro. This is in fact the women who not only survived "There's Something About Mary," but became a national icon by taking that risk. Challenge-wise, "Sweetest Thing" doesn't ask much more of Diaz than to do what comes naturally, but what comes naturally for Diaz is often one hundred times funnier and more appealing than what her contemporaries could come up with. The unexpected element to the film is her teamwork with co-star Applegate—herself a proven laugh-getter. The two seem like the best of friends, and their chemistry and timing is a thing of beauty. I hope they work together again soon.

We come to these movies to smile, right? And after a long drought from laughing at sex jokes, "The Sweetest Thing" gets the job done again, even if it's a little grabby from time to time.

Filmfodder Grade: B+

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