- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

"The Sweetest Thing" aspires only to be the raunchiest thing of the moment, the season, whatever. It left me in an extremely sour and alienated frame of mind.

It would require a drastic change of outlook, generation and perhaps sex to get in the swing of this compulsively obscene farce, which appears to crave cross-country competition with "Sex and the City" as it flaunts Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair as party girls from San Francisco.

Every so often, the Frisco tarts profess to be "tired of the game," meaning the dating game, but they're just kidding. The incorrigible Miss Diaz as Christina Walters is given repeated change-of-heart options when feeling blue but always prefers to party on. No member of the trio demonstrates anything that could be mistaken for bedrock self-respect or a sincere resistance to promiscuous idiocy.

By a strange coincidence, promiscuous idiocy governs the comedy technique of screenwriter Nancy M. Pimental, who apprenticed on the "South Park" series. A treacherous proving ground for wisecracking women, I gather.

Director Roger Kumble, who made a cleverly nasty feature debut by updating "Les liaisons dangereuses" under the title "Cruel Intentions," stoops but fails to conquer while pretending to wallow with the wild girls.

There is one droll idea in the show: Miss Diaz playing a character named Christina while sharing numerous scenes with Miss Applegate, who actually is a Christina.

For the most part, the movie tags along with Miss Diaz's fictional Christina and Miss Applegate's Courtney, her apartment mate and best pal, as they share an impulsive and richly repulsive jaunt to a wedding ceremony they have no business attending.

They learn about it during their evening at the dance club, a favorite hangout. Christina is unexpectedly smitten with a stranger, Peter (Thomas Jane), and pursues him to a wedding in an apocryphal Northern California town called Somerset. It turns out to be his wedding, not that this complication has a serious dimension.

While Christina and Courtney share hilarious mishaps on the road, all reflecting a need on someone's part to trump the most outlandish sex gags in "There's Something About Mary" and "Scary Movie," Miss Blair's Jane is not forgotten.

Incredibly, she's encountered at a workplace for a fleeting sequence. It's a men's store and Jane is soon distracted by an offer to fornicate on the premises, but at least there's a token attempt to suggest she's gainfully employed.

The filmmakers devote more footage to a sequence in which Miss Blair takes a dress with an incriminating stain, like the Monica Lewinsky frock, to the dry cleaner's and experiences one humiliation after another.

Ultimately, she's promoted to public spectacle on a larger scale, courtesy of an overcalculated joke about the pitfalls of oral sex. While secluded in a Kearney Street apartment, Jane requires intervention by the police, emergency rescue squads, neighbors and bystanders. Christina and Courtney get back just in time from their own fool's errand to suggest a remedy. What a lark.

Crashing the nuptials leaves Christina and Courtney with a few war stories of their own. They heave a forgotten, maggoty snack out a car window and it boomerangs on the windshield, forcing a stopover at a service station where the filthy bathroom ends up drenching them with a plumbing breakdown.

That's right after Miss Applegate pretends to use a stand-up urinal and Miss Diaz discovers a peeper lurking behind her cubicle.

This mishap, however, does justify a frolicsome striptease, to the accompaniment of "Pina Colada." When the lyric gets around to the phrase "If they have half a brain ," the selection seems beyond reproach.

Forced to drive some distance in their scanties and arouse a passing biker, who gets the wrong idea when Christina has to retrieve an object that has fallen beneath Courtney's position at the wheel the girls stop at a Somerset clothing store to buy goofy-looking replacement outfits. There they encounter Georgia Engel, the beloved Georgette of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," as the proprietor.

Merciful TV broadcasters might switch to actual episodes of the show at this juncture, but moviegoers will be stuck with the further shenanigans of Christina and Courtney. Within moments, you're smacked with another grotesque brainstorm: Miss Diaz miming Olivia Newton-John in "Grease" while Miss Applegate mocks the laughing Julia Roberts of "Pretty Woman."

What does all this indiscrimate facetiousness prove at the end of the day? That certain shades of sex farce might shorten the careers of shortsighted actresses. Miss Diaz in particular looks like damaged goods of a perhaps irreversible brassiness and stupidity.

1/2 *

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