For a film that's being advertised as a comedy, "Sweet Home Alabama" isn't as funny as you'd hoped.

But it's sweet enough and likable enough to make up for its comedic shortcomings. Besides, it's got another really big thing in its favor: Reese Witherspoon, who could make reading the telephone book interesting.

Thankfully, the material here is a bit more compelling than that. While it may be too predictable for its own good, it's one of the first romantic comedies since "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" that will have you leaving the theater with a smile on your face.

(But if the film forced us to hear the title tune, which isn't even performed by its originators — Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd — just one more time, it might have worn out its welcome.)

As far as the film is concerned, the title refers to the long-forgotten home of twentysomething Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon), a New York fashion designer who is poised for big things.

Melanie's just had her first big show, and now she's getting ready to marry Andrew Hennings (Patrick Dempsey), the Kennedy-esque son of New York's mayor (Candice Bergen).

To his surprise, though, Melanie pleads with him to let her go back home to get some things squared away. What he doesn't know is that she's going back to tiny Pigeon Creek, Ala., to force her long-estranged, redneck husband, Jake (Josh Lucas), into finally granting her a divorce.

Easier said than done. Jake's not having any of it, especially after he sees her acting as if she's better than everyone else there — including her own parents (Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place).

Yes, this is going where you'd expect it to. It doesn't help that Andy Tennant's direction is somewhat lazy, even uninspired most of the time (none of the jokes are as crisp as they should be).

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But somehow, Witherspoon and the talented supporting cast make this material (crafted by two novice screenwriters) seem fresher and more amusing than it has any right to be.

She's also got chemistry to spare with up-and-comer Lucas, whose good ol' boy charm may remind some of Matthew McConaughey before his career meltdown.

"Sweet Home Alabama" is rated PG-13 for occasional use of profanity, some sex talk and use of crude sexual slang terms and brief violence (Civil War re-enactments, as well as a brief scuffle). Running time: 102 minutes.


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