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susan granger's review of " america's sweethearts " ( columbia/sony )
what a waste of a talented cast !
billy crystal and co-writer peter tolan have concocted a sly , provocative premise and , as the opening credits roll , it's obvious that they're attempting an old-fashioned romantic comedy .
the story involves a veteran publicist ( billy crystal ) who is summoned to orchestrate a press junket in las vegas when an arrogant director ( christopher walken ) holds a megabuck movie hostage in his editing room , refusing to show it to anyone .
he figures that by giving the journalists juicy hints of a possible reconciliation between the film's once-married-but-now-estranged stars , gwen and eddie ( catherine zeta-jones , john cusack ) , they'll be so distracted that they won't remember they didn't see the movie or it wasn't what they expected .
( and crystal thought of this long before a sony exec concocted the phony critic/david manning quote scandal ! )
for help , he turns to gwen's personal assistant/sister ( julia roberts ) .
but the laughs are few and far-between .
crystal's glib , cynical flack isn't wickedly funny enough with a few amusing one-liners .
after six months under the care of a depak chopra-like guru ( alan arkin ) , cusack's character's too emotionally fragile , lacking the necessary charisma .
zeta-jones's vain , narcissistic diva is undeveloped and one-dimensional .
only hank azaria , as zeta-jones's much-macho spanish lover , and stanley tucci , as a studio exec , and roberts manage to whip up any farcical froth .
basically , we don't like these ego-driven , stereotypical characters , let alone root for them to unwind their romantic entanglements , and joe roth's direction is predictable , formulaic and telegraphic .
on the granger movie gauge of 1 to 10 , " america's sweethearts " is a contrived , shallow 4 . as a screwball satire , it's strictly superficial .