-By Doris Toumarkine

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For summer, the studios have a long tradition of setting up tentpoles, their high-concept, event movies heavy on action, big names and commercial appeal. These days, the studios also roll out clotheslines, youth-oriented pictures with a narrative thread upon which to hang plenty of gross-out/bathroom humor, outrageous scenes especially attentive to oral sex and semen, filthy language, fixations on certain normally hidden body parts, a nifty pop soundtrack, gorgeous settings and an appealing cast. The Sweetest Thing's clothesline, which holds up an especially heavy load of dirty wash, should easily attract 20- and 30-somethings.

Often bright, often dopey and always fast-paced, this clothesline is also highly serviceable as a storyline. Borrowing more than a few slices from American Pie/There's Something About Mary-type fare, this romantic comedy is also "Sex in Another City." Here, it's upscale San Francisco, where Christina (Cameron Diaz), a hot-to-trot (but not to commit) 28-year-old control freak, parties at an ultra-trendy disco with roommates Courtney (Christina Applegate) and Jane (Selma Blair). The night is focused on finding Jane a mate, since she has just been dumped by her fianc.

Amidst the crowd of obnoxious guys, Christina spots Peter (Thomas Jane) as a prospect for Jane. But Peter is more preoccupied with his partying brother Roger (Jason Bateman), who is apparently about to be married upstate. After the brothers slip away to a bachelor party, Christina, to her surprise, finds herself pining for Peter.

An obsession grows to the point that Courtney can easily persuade Christina to crash the wedding that Peter will be attending. Thus, the two women head north in their SUV, encountering along the way a brawny biker who thinks they are engaging in lesbian sex, a filthy roadside bathroom with a urinal flood and a glory hole, and, finally, a wedding whose would-be groom is a surprise and whose would-be bride is played amusingly by indie queen Parker Posey. Meanwhile, Jane, back in San Francisco, has hooked up with a hunky guy whose physical proportions are not beside the point. Already stuck on him, she literally gets stuck during sex.

Yes, The Sweetest Thing offers a happy ending no doubt meant to be its redeeming social value--beyond affording female characters an equal opportunity to be crude. Short but not exactly sweet, the movie is a slick bit of often-entertaining vulgarity that just may click with its intended audience. Let other ticket buyers beware.--Doris Toumarkine

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