The `Thing' is, a good time is had by all

April 12, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

In the hands of lesser actresses, The Sweetest Thing would be just another raunchy comedy, the only difference being that this go-round, it's the women being raunchy.

But Cameron Diaz is so infectiously high-spirited, Christina Applegate is so resolutely anarchic, Selma Blair is so believably naive, and their energy is so rampant, and all three are so obviously having a good time ...

Hey, if they're having so much fun, then I, for one, am willing to watch. Even if the raunch-o-meter occasionally charts a little high. Even if the plot does sometimes go off in unforeseen (and unnecessary) directions. Even if the film's third act does smell of filmmakers anxious to wrap things up, but unsure how.

Some audiences may not be quite so forgiving. There's plenty of humor here that finds its origins in the body's nether regions, and there are plenty of instances where you'll wish the filmmakers had gone for the laugh instead of the groan. But while The Sweetest Thing is crass, it's never mean-spirited.

Plotwise, there's not much to report here. Diaz is Christina Walters, a party girl who professes to be tired of the whole dating scene, and is anxious to find Mr. Right (after too many years of settling for Mr. Right Now). Applegate is her hard-partying best friend, Courtney, who's as dedicated to seeing Christina get what she wants as to having a good time herself. And Blair is Jane, a wallflower who's had enough of that label.

Things seem to turn for Christina when she meets a handsome, amiable guy at a dance club one night (played with effortless likability by Baltimore native Thomas Jane). But she never gets the nerve to find out who he is; all she knows is that his name is Pete and his brother is getting married Saturday. That's enough for Courtney, however, who insists they drive three hours and show up for that wedding themselves.

And so the girls head north after the guy of Christina's dreams. All sorts of adventures occur along the way, most of which involve Diaz and Applegate stripping down to their skivvies. There's even a quick appearance by Georgia Engel (Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as a dress-shop owner who proves the girls' unlikely salvation.

Diaz, playing her character from Charlie's Angels but without the butt-kicking ability, is her normal delightful self; she projects a guileless persona that seems unquenchably genuine. And Applegate, who's been allowed to waste her time on pointless TV sitcoms for too long, is marvelous, a perfectly arch counterpart to Diaz's freeform exuberance.

Director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions) displays an admirable knack for knowing when to cut off a scene before it grows tiresome, and screenwriter Nancy M. Pimental (co-host of TV's Win Ben Stein's Money) displays a wickedly warped sense of girl power.

Sweetest unravels almost completely at the end, as the mood turns saccharinely sentimental and serious to an almost maudlin degree. But the resolution comes quickly enough, and its effects don't linger long enough to seriously detract from the raunchy good time had by all.

The Sweetest Thing

Starring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair

Directed by Roger Kumble

Rated R (sexuality, language)

Released by Columbia Pictures

Running time 84 minutes

SCORE * * *

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