Burn Hollywood Burn

1998, Movie, R, 115 mins


A crude, vulgar satire of Hollywood shallowness, insincerity and moral bankruptcy, done in faux-documentary style and masterminded by the auteur of SHOWGIRLS. "Alan Smithee" is the official pseudonym available to filmmakers who feel their work has been so compromised -- usually by studio interference -- that they don't want their names sullied by association. It's also the real name of the film's editor turned director protagonist (Eric Idle), who's hired to direct the obscenely expensive cop movie "Trio," starring Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone, primarily because bloated, egomaniacal producer James Edmunds (Ryan O'Neal) and toadying studio head Jerry Glover (Richard Jeni) figure he'll be easy to push around. To their utter amazement, Smithee flips out when they tamper with his cut of the movie and goes into hiding with the negative, which he threatens to torch. Be warned: We're not in PLAYER territory here. Joe Eszterhas writes with a pile driver, director Arthur Hiller is no Robert Altman, and even Hiller was so unhappy with the results that he -- who left his name on CARPOOL and MARRIED TO IT -- decided to go incognito. So the film that was shot with the title An Alan Smithee Film actually is an Alan Smithee film, though the irony is so blatantly perfect that it's hard not to suspect the machinations of the Hollywood publicity machine. Not only is this colossally unfunny misfire boorish and misogynistic (the height of humor lies in labeling all women "feminists" and being unable to tell one African-American filmmaker from another), but it's stuck in a 20-year-old time warp, positing superannuated '70s-era relics like producer Robert Evans (as his smug self) as A-list players, rather than the sleek, agency-trained MBAs who really control the purse strings today. Would that Hiller had taken this negative on the lam and spared us all! leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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