We were watching Sweet Home Alabama for about the 10th time when I realized how much place cards play a role in the movie.
Let me explain my definition of a place card. It's an item that runs through the story, usually something funny or odd, that will serve to create a valid point in the motivation and definition of the characters by the end of the story. In Sweet Home Alabama, one of the most significant of the place cards is the cat that shows up throughout the movie. At first we are just amused by it, but then when analyzing it's role we realize that it shows a significant aspect of Melanie's character.
There is a point when the hero tells Melanie's new fiance about the girl he knew as a child who was so worried about a dying cat that she decided to put it out of it's misery by attaching a stick of dynamite to the cats tail. (Please, don't email me and tell me it's wrong or cruel. I'm with you.) But the cat gets away, runs into the bank and the explosion happens in the bank. He also mentions that to this day... the cat is still seen running around town. While the new fiance is horrified by the story, the old husband sees it as her attempt to take care of those things around her. He sees it as a strength of her character and the quirks that made him fall in love with the young Melanie. It shows that no matter how hard she tries to make things right, she usually screws it up somehow. But she always has heart behind it.
There is also the moment in the movie when she goes into the bank and the nervous bank guard spots her. She apologizes for what happened in the past, but he still leaves on break... just in case. By the end of the movie when the cat mysteriously shows up at their wedding reception, we begin to see that by his showing up it means that all is well. They'll get their happy ever after... even if it is wild and sometimes painful.
So, by being spoon fed these place cards, these seemingly insignificant moments that add up to something more... we are given a glimpse of something that we can hang our hearts, story, books, movie... on.