ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

At first glance, Mona (Katherine Heigl) and Don Champagne (Patrick Wilson) have the perfect, idyllic suburban life. However, Mona’s major OCD, which has her scheduling dates for intercourse and sticking to them, has left Don feeling frustrated and unhappy. That all changes when a brunette bombshell, Dusty (Jordana Brewster) enters his furniture store looking for a job. He hires her, and although it initially seems like an innocent hire, the two are soon caught up in a passionate affair together.

It all goes downhill once Dusty tells Don she’s pregnant with their child, and when Mona finds out, she’ll take extreme measures to make sure Dusty won’t continue disrupting her perfect little world anymore.

It’s not just my own insignificant opinion that Katherine Heigl, whether true or not, carries the stench of bitchiness wherever she goes. Ever since her feature-film breakthrough Knocked Up, Heigl has garnered a notorious reputation amongst filmmakers and castmates as being too opinionated for her own good and extremely difficult to work with. An even bigger stench, though, is the horrendous amount of crappy chick flicks she’s accumulated since that time, a streak that could put even Jennifer Aniston’s record list to shame.

So it seems like a no-brainer that Heigl should take a role that allows her to embrace that crabby persona, yet as much potential for dark, self-deprecating humor as that carries, Home Sweet Hell is an unfortunate misfire.

At first, Home Sweet Hell shows promise. There’s a nice upper-class suburbia look to the production design (it’s sorta similar to Edward Scissorhands), and to her credit, Heigl is, for at least the first half, effective as the anal retentive wife who’s all Stepford on the outside, and controlling she-devil on the inside. But as the film goes on and the plot beings to thicken, director Anthony Burns doesn’t give this film the bite it really needs to work as a black comedy.

The film is at its best when Burns shines the spotlight on Heigl and Patrick Wilson’s dysfunctional marriage, but what could’ve been a delightfully morbid satire on their suburban life going to hell in a handbasket (think an even more twisted version War of the Roses or American Beauty), Burns and his three writers (Carlo Allen, Ted Elrick and Tom Lavagnino) bog the second half down with one uninspired turn after the other. Although Jordana Brewster is a sight for sore eyes, and gives a spirited performance, her character gets thrown into a subplot involving an extortion scheme with her biker boyfriend and his gang that adds nothing to the mix. If anything, the gang only brings the energy of the first half to a halt and takes time away from what should’ve been Don and Mona’s story.

Still, you gotta give some props to Heigl for at least now being in on the joke about herself, even though the more the villain inside her reveals itself, the less convincing her performance gets. Patrick Wilson, on the other hand, is consistently good throughout. Wilson’s an underrated actor, but he’s excelled more in dramas than he has in comedies. Despite typecasting over the years making him the obvious choice for this role, it’s nice to see him be able to effectively provide laughs as the emasculated, sad sack husband who’s balls are most definitely in a vice grip held by his wife; it’s just too bad that the material isn’t anywhere close to matching what he brings to this film.

The premise is ripe for satire, yet Home Sweet Hell runs out of gas by the final third of the film, squandering the dark themes its trying to explore with pointless subplots and by blunting any edge this film could’ve had. Heigl, Wilson and Jordana Brewster are all game here, and on the plus side, the fact that Heigl’s willing poke fun at her negative image might be a step back in the right direction for her. However, those three are still unable to elevate the lackluster script that could’ve and should’ve gone darker and deeper into its twisted subject matter.

I give Home Sweet Hell a C- (★★).

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