Not to be confused with the 1990 comedy flop featuring Uma Thurman, this Where the Heart Is
boasts a winning performance from Natalie Portman. Novalee Nation (Portman), a pregnant teenager from Tennessee, is bound for California with her worthless boyfriend, Willy Jack (Dylan Bruno). A pit stop at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart proves fateful when Willy Jack abandons her there. She secretly sets up camp at the megastore and spends her days meeting with kindly booster Sister Husband (Stockard Channing) and eccentric librarian Forney Hall (James Frain). Her life takes another turn after she gives birth in the store (clean up, aisle six!) and finds a best friend in sassy nurse Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd). Meanwhile, Willy Jack has found a talent agent (Joan Cusack) and tries to make some life changes of his own.
Where The Heart Is offers charming, folksy fun; homespun wisdom; and an obstacle course of plot development (if the Wal-Mart angle weren't enough, there's also a kidnapping, a tornado, and at least half a dozen other major events thrown in). Director Matt Williams, who produced the popular sitcoms Roseanne and Home Improvement, takes television's cut-to-commercial route to make giant leaps in space and time from scene to scene. It's disorienting, but the remarkable female cast (which includes Sally Field in a cameo) lends plausiblilty to the muddle, even when you don't think anything more could possibly happen. --Shannon Gee
Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman shine in this offbeat, delicious slice of life about a down-on-her-luck Southern teen. After gaining 15 minutes of fame for giving birth to "The Wal-Mart Baby", Novalee Nation (Portman) begins to put her life together with the help of the kind, quirky strangers who become her surrogate family. It's an inspiring celebration of love, friendship and self-worth that delivers "quality, emotionally satisfying entertainment" (ReelViews).