The Sweetest Thing
Director: Roger Kumble. Cast: Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Thomas Jane, Jason Bateman, Parker Posey. Screenplay: Nancy M. Pimental.

The Sweetest Thing is so off-putting it is, I don't know, on-putting. The movie—and if ever a movie were not a "film," this is it—is both a put-on and a turn-on, though neither term is meant in a directly sexual way. The cast of The Sweetest Thing and its "crew," a generic term, in this case, for the people paid to turn the camera on in front of the actresses, have a craving for punchlines to match the most avid porn auteur's appetite for money shots. What Cameron, Christina, and Selma want, what they really really want, is to make us laugh at their own goofy, tasteless, free-spirited vulgarity. For my part, they succeeded, enough so that a movie as lame, plotless, and totally unnecessary as The Sweetest Thing provided me with a solid afternoon's enjoyment.

The easiest and most frequently heard objection to this movie is that it is crass and scatological, but remarkably—and yes, gender makes a difference here—I felt that the coarseness of The Sweetest Thing was precisely what allowed it to entertain. The movie plays as if the three naughtiest pranksters and trash-talkers in Hollywood's distaff domain had finally seized the budget and the opportunity to revel onscreen in their own basest instincts. The screen almost bursts with the weird novelty (why is it a novelty?) of girls being as nasty as they wanna be, in private—and with the companion novelty of being a film about three girlfriends who manage not to fight over a guy (Thomas Jane barely matters), not to wear on each other's nerves, not to have a single shared experience that forces them to split and then make up. Lucky for us, they just hang out, amusing each other.

For sure, The Sweetest Thing gets nasty: aerial maggots, aerial sewage water, semen stains, silicone groping, penises poked into women's eyes. And though it seems patronizing to say, "It was a relief and a breath of fresh air to see women, for a change, cutting it up and talking shit on the movie screen," I can only stand by the memory of the movie's considerably flyaway pleasures. Cameron Diaz makes a perfect ass of herself, gladly; her best comic moment is in a blooper reel in the closing credits, but she's still an affable presence throughout. Selma Blair, lest we deduce on the basis of Todd Solondz's Storytelling that she was bent on serious thespianship, makes the absolute best out of a scene where she fornicates with a man-sized stuffed elephant. And Christina Applegate, whose face remains in the wake of Married...With Children a distilled index of low American comedy, turns in the sharpest and most energetic Gal Pal performance in a season's worth of silly farces. She's a real hoot, when flirting moronically in a club ("So what's up with you? . . . So what's up with you?"), when peeing in a men's urinal, and especially when viciously exploding every warm memory of Julia Roberts in a red dress and white gloves getting ready for the opera. When, in a deserted filling station somewhere in California, the movie hands her its single attempted instance of emotional sincerity, she scores. Watch this girl.

And, in the meantime, watch The Sweetest Thing, even though it has almost nothing of authentic value to recommend it. I mean, if you already know you'd hate the movie, trust that impulse . . . but on those evenings when simple, stupid pleasures count for a lot, you could do worse. Grade: C

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