How Do You Know…well, You Know Because It’s Not Called Sweet Home Alabama

Published December 18, 2011 by jrm17

I’m not exactly one for a romantic sappy movies.  I’m kind of like Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached in that I think they suck…for the most part.  I’d rather watch something with a psychological twist, sports, or buckets of blood spewing at the hands of a serial killer or the paranormal.  However, there is one actress that usually gets my attention…and money…when a movie comes out: Reese Witherspoon.  And last night, she did it again when I watched How Do You Know.  Got my attention that is.

Let me preface this with the fact that I really wanted to like this movie for a few reasons.  Her character was a softball player for the U.S. National Team.  Jack Nicholson was in it (I really like Jack).  And most of all, Reese was in my all-time favorite, I-can-quote-every-line movie ever: Sweet Home Alabama.  Therefore, I was unconsciously comparing the two the entire time.

How Do You Know was not really all that well received and it was basically a flop at the box office, bringing in only $7,484,696 the opening weekend.  And I’m pretty sure I know why–especially when I’m comparing it to Sweet Home Alabama (Seriously, no one hates this movie.  Okay, no one with the exception of my movie taste impaired boyfriend).

Cute and Funny lines.  Yeah, How Do You Know had its moments.  But none of them were really memorable.  I know I laughed at some point but it’s about 12 hours later and I cannot recall a single one of the jokes.  I remember I found Paul Rudd’s character amusing and that I enjoyed mocking Owen Wilson’s character in my head (He’s a Nationals relief pitcher.  What’s there not to make fun of?).  But anything specific?  I can’t think of a single one.  Sweet Home Alabama, on the other hand, I can quote that entire movie…and not just because I’ve seen it about a million and one times.  Even the first time watching it, the audience will know what it means to say, “What do you want to marry me for anyhow?  So I can kiss you anytime I want.”  Plus, there’s even better ones the more you watch it: “You hoity toity Yankee bitch.”  “I’m thinking the words joint checking are flashing in your head right now.”  “That’s my mama.  She makes the best jam in three counties.”  “Look who done found her accent.”  “Seems she ran out on a perfectly good cake.”  “Now what would B-Ray do at a gay bar?” “Trouble done walked back into my life disguised as my favorite daughter law!  Soon to be ex.”  Okay, I’ll shut up now but seriously, I could keep going.

The male characters.  Maybe I’m a little bit partial to rednecks but the male cast in Sweet Home Alabama was just…better.  Okay, it’s a combination of the actors and the characters themselves.  Josh Lucas was amazing as Jake and Patrick Dempsey made Andrew sympathy inducing despite the fact every girl falls for Jake.  Like I said, in How Do You Know, it was Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd fighting for Reese’s affections.  As actors they were both fine but I just can’t believe them in romantic roles.  I think Owen Wilson, I think Lightning McQueen and Paul Rudd just creates pictures of Friends (and then my mind leaves him and goes to the important characters in the show).  They are just too comedic for playing in a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.  It wasn’t entirely their faults.  The writing for the characters wasn’t all that great.  It was definitely stereotypical (I know that’s the purpose but still).  Wilson’s character was just a douchey tool who deserved a punch in the face and Paul Rudd’s was way overly neurotic and creepy for Lisa (Witherspoon’s character) to be believable in falling for him.  The combination of the casting and the writing ruined it.  Personally, I think Scott Caan would’ve been good in Owen Wilson’s role.  He’s built wrong for a pitcher–maybe make him a shortstop–but his personality, looks, and talent would’ve improved the character. On the other hand, Jake…yeah, he melts your heart in the first minute with that sweet Southern drawl and cocky little attitude.  And Andrew, well, he took her to Tiffany’s and said pick.  I think he’s in good with the female community (Though, he won me in Lucky 7 with Kimberly Williams-Paisley).  But just for the heck of it, let’s compare visually:

Josh Lucas as Jake. Photo courtesy of


Patrick Dempsey as Andrew. Photo courtesy of


The plot itself wasn’t all that strong but it was good enough to hold me until there was about 20 minutes left.  It was a little dragged out but that would’ve been overlookable if the writing was better.  Of course, Reese was basically playing a different version of the same girl she always is.  Lisa was a little bit stronger but there was something about her I didn’t really like.  I can’t really put my finger on it, though.  Melanie (Sweet Home Alabama) was would shoot you straight from the hip.  Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) was just that cute, funny, ditzy girl you want to be friends with.  Elizabeth (Just Like Heaven)…well, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched it, but I remember liking her more.  But Lisa does score big points for playing softball and watching a baseball game while upset, saying nothing more than, “Nice mechanics.”

One thing that was on par with…and maybe even better in How Do You Know…was the female supporting cast.  Kathryn Hahn played Annie, Paul Rudd’s pregnant assistant.  She was really funny.  Just as funny as when she played Kate Hudson’s friend in How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days.  And more memorable than her role as Amanda Peet’s friend in A Lot Like Love (My bad movie chosing boyfriend actually likes this one) or Kate Bosworth’s friend in Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!  Are we seeing a trend here?  She always plays the lead’s friend.  And this time she really broke out.  She was really funny and I found myself paying more attention to her when she was on screen than anyone who was supposed to be important.

Overall, I’d agree with previous critiques that this movie wasn’t anything to be overtly excited about.  It definitely left something to be desired.  I know I’m being biased when comparing to my favorite movie but I think that set the precedent in Reese’s career.  Not many movies can live up to Sweet Home Alabama (No String Attached came majorly close and How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days was is there too) but this movie wasn’t in the same ballpark.  Hell, it wasn’t even in the parking lot outside of the ballpark.  It was like the AA minor league affiliate to Sweet Home Alabama.

P.S.  Michael Koehnlein, if you read this and I find out, which I will, you are looking at watching Sweet Home Alabama, No Strings Attached, and How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days for not listening to me.


6 comments on “How Do You Know…well, You Know Because It’s Not Called Sweet Home Alabama

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